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Bertha HarianBertha Harian


Foreign squeeze

Something important happened in Parliament yesterday, more important than Woffles Wu or whether the G over-billed or got over-billed on goods and services. It has to do with the foreign population but you have to read BT to find out the full works. Go buy BT.

Beyond revising the Immigration Act to weed out sham marriages of foreigners marrying Singaporeans just to get PR, the G has introduced a Bill to amend the Employment of Foreign Manpower Act. Bigger fines, longer jail term and even caning might be in store for errant employers who bring in foreign workers willy-nilly. They better not get caught forging certificates, giving under-the-table money to recruiters or get around their quotas. Seems the G is cleaning up all aspects to do with immigration here, whether foreigners come here to live or work. I mean, they are cleaning up Geylang too, going by yesterday’s TNP reports on foreign women who come in on student passes but somehow end up as street walkers.

One thing which made my eyebrows shoot up (note I didn’t raised): how some offences will be considered administrative breaches rather than offences to be settled in a court of law. This is supposedly to make sure cases are resolved quickly. I’ve said in the past that I’m concerned about such executive powers. What recourse do people who feel that they have been hard done by have? Appeal to the minister, the top member of the executive? One such “administrative” breach is circumventing the quota on how many foreigners in relation to locals employers can hire. That’s a $20K maximum fine and a possible ban on employing foreign workers. Quite tough.

I hope Parliament in its next sitting to debate the Bill asks some questions about how the G decides what should be admin breaches, and what should be criminal offences. Mere expediency? Can’t be that you leave the “cane-able” offences to the court, right?

I wonder what impact this will have on Singapore’s foreign population numbers in future? These moves are couple with tightening rules on employment of work permit and S-pass holders as well as those who think just plonking a certain sum of money here will get them PR.  Time we take stock of these many changes which have been taking place piecemeal over the past few months.


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An ex-journalist who can't get enough of the news after being in the business for 26 years

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