No entry: The narrow path between your rights and mine

 

I enjoy the work of Maruah and their push for fairness. However, I do not agree with their position this time: the one where they say the suspected rioters needed a court process before they are deported.

In 2008, I was stopped at British border control in Brussels. I don’t know why the officer stopped me at random, but she did. (It was also interesting to observe the only people stopped was me and another Asian family)

She questioned me for all of 5 minutes on what I was doing in the UK. She went through each and every document, including those in my wallet and even casual paper I carried on me. She had all my 10 fingers fingerprinted. She made me feel like a criminal even though I had done no wrong.

She then refused me entry into the United Kingdom, based on her “feeling” that I was there with the intention of long term residence.

Without giving me a chance to explain my position, she stood up and walked off. The only advice she left me with was, “Go back to your country and get a visa”.

I came back to my country and was still denied a visa.

Of course, I threw a fit. Denying the freedom to travel was against the Declaration of Human Rights!  I was a Singaporean – we thrive on being legalistic! Why was I not given a “fair trial”, wait, actually why was I not even given a chance to explain my position to a higher authority?

That was five years ago. I did not go to the newspapers, I did not kick up a fuss – because after much thinking, I understand this is how countries police their immigration policies. And if you’re a chaff in someone else’s kitchen, you had better respect their laws and tread very carefully – because they will show no sympathy when it comes to repatriating you.

At the very point I was refused entry to the UK, ironically, I had also a British friend who was repatriated from the United States because of something similar.

Maruah claims there is no legal process surrounding the deportation of the (suspected) rioters. Having a right to work in Singapore comes with a set of conditions and losing that right to work here when you breach those conditions – IS also a process. Just that it is not court-based but ICA (Immigration and Checkpoints Authority) based. If the 2 was not separated, all work permit, S pass and EP applications will need a court process – not possible.

Can you imagine – 1.2m foreigners in Singapore all demanding due process before repatriation? Yes, everyone has a right to a fair trial, but then every country and every citizen also has their own rights on how their country wants to be managed.

Like Singapore, Britain is also facing political problems with foreigners and I understand that.

Just last week I was at a lunch with His Excellency the British High Commissioner. I wanted so much to share with him the monkey business I had to go through, but I’ve learnt to let bygones be bygones.

 

 

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About the author

Tay Leong Tan

Tay Leong Tan is a collective of 3 writers. Tay, Leong and Tan. (Who were you expecting?!) We are enthusiastic about labour issues, economics and current affairs in particular.

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