Repatriation or Deportation from Singapore: How Does It Work?

Last updated on March 20, 2020

man standing with suitcase ready to fly back home

In the aftermath of the Little India riot in 2013, the Singapore Government repatriated 57 foreign workers identified to have been involved in the event.

More recently, a former Hong Kong resident was repatriated for being an undesirable foreign national due to the commission of acts that could have violated the Public Order Act.

With the occurrence of such cases, this article aims to explain what repatriation, as well as deportation, is in the context of Singapore law, the grounds on which either may occur and whether the repatriated or deported person can return to Singapore.

What is Repatriation? How is it Different from Deportation?

Repatriation is the act by a State of sending a foreign national back to his/her home country or country of origin. Repatriation can occur either as a result of an application by the foreign national himself (i.e. voluntary repatriation – discussed below) or by decision of the Government.

Deportation, on the other hand, is the act of compulsorily removing a foreign national from the country’s territory.

It must be noted that in both instances, only foreign nationals (and not locals) can be repatriated or deported. Further, both repatriated and deported persons are generally barred from re-entering Singapore.

How different is repatriation or deportation from extradition?

Extradition is the formal process by which someone accused or convicted of a crime, and who has subsequently fled overseas, is handed back from that overseas country to the jurisdiction of the country in which the crime was committed.

This process is different from repatriation or deportation, which involves removing a person from the country they are currently located in and sending them back to their country of origin. This can be because the person has committed an offence in the first country, but need not be.

In Singapore for example, repatriation or deportation is an executive decision. This means that so long as the Government assesses that it is undesirable for a foreigner to remain in Singapore (even if he/she had not committed an offence), then that foreigner can be repatriated or deported.

What are the Grounds/Reasons for Repatriation or Deportation from Singapore?

The Immigration Act provides a list of prohibited immigrants who may be removed from Singapore. Some of whom include:

  • Any person who is unable to show that he has the means of supporting himself and his dependants (if any) or that he has definite employment awaiting him, or who is likely to become insolvent or dependent on the public for financial support
  • Any person suffering from a contagious or infectious disease which makes his presence in Singapore dangerous to the community
  • The family and dependents of a prohibited immigrant

Repatriation of a Foreign Employee

Under the Employment of Foreign Manpower Regulations, an employer shall repatriate the foreign employee when the work permit or visit pass of the employee expires or is cancelled or revoked, and if the employee has not been employed by another employer.

The employer will bear the cost associated with repatriating the foreign employee except where the Controller of Immigration permits otherwise. The employer also has to ensure that they have paid all outstanding salaries or moneys due to the foreign employee before repatriating him/her.

What is voluntary repatriation?

Voluntary repatriation is the act of sending back a foreign national to his/her country of origin wherein the foreign national is the one who had applied to the Singapore Government to be sent back. For voluntary repatriation, it is the Government that bears the cost of repatriation.

The following are the requisites for the grant of voluntary repatriation:

  • The foreign national is unable to obtain employment or support himself or herself and her/his family by reason of destitution, infirmity or mental capacity;
  • The foreign national is unable to pay the cost of his/her passage and of the passages of his/her family (if any) to the country of his birth or citizenship; and
  • The foreign national is or is likely to become dependent on the public or on a charity for financial support.

In this instance, any person voluntarily repatriated at the cost of the Government has to enter into an undertaking that he/she will not return to Singapore without the permission in writing of the Controller of Immigration. Such permission may be granted subject to a full refund of the repatriation costs and the fulfilment of other conditions.

If the person is subsequently found entering or attempting to enter the country without the Controller’s permission, he/she will be guilty of an offence.

May the order to remove a foreigner from Singapore be appealed?

An order to remove a prohibited immigrant may be appealed in writing to the Minister for Home Affairs. This is unless the removal is based on the expiry of a Singapore pass or visa granted to the foreigner.

In addition, a foreign national who is repatriated or deported has no right under the law to challenge the decision in court. Meaning, if a foreign national has been ordered to be repatriated or deported due to a crime he has committed, he/she will not be entitled to judicial hearings or a right to be heard in court in respect of the repatriation or deportation order.

What is the Penalty for Unlawful Return to Singapore After being Removed?

Unlawful return to Singapore entails the entry of residence of a person who was repatriated or deported from Singapore without the written permission of the Controller.

In instances where this happens, the foreigner can be found guilty of an offence and may be punished with imprisonment of between 1 and 3 years plus a fine up to $6,000, apart from once again being removed from the country.

At the end of the day, the entry and stay of a foreign national or an immigrant in Singapore is a privilege that can be revoked, but within the bounds of specific conditions provided for and enumerated under the law.

As repatriation and deportation are executive decisions, it is up to the Ministry of Home Affairs and the Controller to decide whether a foreigner will continue to be allowed to stay and/or reside in Singapore.

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