Government’s Treatment of Deportees Undermines Security

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Workfair Singapore is deeply concerned the deportation of the seven acquitted of rioting was carried out by non-transparent Executive action. The Law Ministry’s response (Law Ministry responds to calls to justify repatriation, Today 24 December 2013) raises concerns for Singaporeans’ rights before the courts.

The seven deportees were acquitted and then warned. This is a contradiction: if they were acquitted, they are innocent; if so, a warning indicates such weak culpability as to suggest they are not a security threat. Therefore, they do not meet the undesirability test in Immigration Act Section 8. Section 33 allows for ministerial appeal against deportation. We invite the ministry to clarify if it applies here.

In deporting them, the Law Ministry claims it took “firm and quick action” to avoid “additional social and security risks” caused by a “recurrence of an incident”. It has not made clear on what foundation these claims rest since the seven were acquitted.

A warning is an entirely administrative judgment formed without transparent recourse to the evidence. It is not appealable. The implications of such administrative powers for Singaporeans are obvious.

Administrative action must meet the tests of legality, reasonableness and rationality. Without the right to challenge the warning or deportation, we are denied the ability to test whether the state has met these criteria.

Due process is not based on whatever the law states at any given time but on adherence to the principles of justice. If found innocent an accused should not be subject to extra-judicial action.

Justice should never be subordinated to cost or the possibility of abuse: the remedy is fine tuning procedures to make them more efficient.

Justice cannot be guaranteed to Singaporeans by denying it to immigrants. The security of Singaporeans is best promoted in a transparent, non-arbitrary system available to all.

We agree that every country has the right to determine its laws. However, those laws must uphold justice at all times for all people. The system cannot be “firm, just and fair” unless the Rule of Law is preserved and due process observed.

While we note that working here is a privilege extended to foreigners, it nevertheless carries reciprocal benefit. Low-waged migrants, almost half the workforce, contribute immensely to Singapore’s wealth and smooth functioning. To deny them the basic protections of due process underlines the exploitation many migrants experience.

The Law Ministry’ defence of the deportations is based on the letter rather than spirit of the law and therefore contrary to justice. Our security is achieved by all branches of the law working together to protect every individual. The administration should not divide the legal framework among different classes of people, different provisions of the law, and different powers of government agencies.

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Categories: Little India Riot

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