Over 42 million travellers entered Singapore in 2020, lowest in 5 years: ICA

SINGAPORE – Over 42 million travellers entered Singapore last year, a plunge of more than 80 per cent from the year before, while the low-value goods that came in doubled in volume to over 21 million.

The Immigration and Checkpoints Authority (ICA) said on Monday (Feb 8) that the volume of travellers in 2020 – which saw an 80.6 per cent fall from the over 217 million in 2019 – was the lowest in five years.

In its annual statistics report, ICA said traveller volume fell as demand for air travel came to a halt, with many countries imposing strict border control measures due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

With many of those stuck at home doing their shopping online, the volume of low-value goods – which do not exceed $400 in costs – rose sharply.

The ICA cleared over 21 million low-value goods through air cargo checkpoints last year, double the 10.5 million in 2019.

Meanwhile, the volume of cargo – including consignments, containers and parcels – coming into Singapore rose by 400,000 last year, a 3.6 per cent increase from 2019.

The drop in travellers and vehicles entering Singapore led to a 55.4 per cent decrease in the number of contraband cases last year.

A total of 41,000 contraband cases were detected in 2020, compared to 92,000 in 2019.

Despite the decrease, the ICA said there was still an uptrend in the number of attempts to smuggle contraband into Singapore by hiding them among low-value goods.

The number of such cases went upmore than five times – from 610 in 2019 to 4,000 last year.

The authorities also continued to detect huge amounts of contraband cigarettes and drugs hidden within legitimate shipments of goods at the checkpoints.

Some of these include “sophisticated methods of concealment” such as hiding cigarettes in metal cabinets, household items, cardboard boxes and in various modified compartments of vehicles.

The ICA said it will continue to watch these trends closely as such smuggling modus operandi can similarly be used by terrorists to smuggle weapons or explosives into Singapore.

The number of immigration offenders arrested fell by 49.2 per cent, with 473 cases in 2020, down from 932 in 2019.

Of those arrested last year, 416 were overstayers and 57 were illegal immigrants.

The ICA said most of the immigration offenders employed by errant employers were working in the maintenance as well as food and beverageindustries.

“The majority of the harbourers and employers arrested had failed to exercise due diligence, to conduct the necessary checks on the foreigners’ immigration status, before employing them or renting out their premises,” it said.

The ICA added that it will continue to work closely with other enforcement agencies to conduct operations against offenders hiding in non-residential premises like forested areas or farms.

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