Immigrations & Checkpoints Authority (ICA) Staff Were The Unsung Heroes This Christmas
While many of us made it back home to spend quality time with our loved ones this Christmas, some unsung heroes were OT-ing instead.
90% of ICA officers couldn’t do this
Besides being extremely on-the-ball about updating Singaporeans on Causeway jams, ICA officers and staff were also hard at work over the holidays.
Only 10% ICA officers could take leave
Due to the high volume of traffic at Woodlands and Tuas checkpoints, 500 staff members had to clock the dreaded OT last week.
Minister for Home Affairs K Shanmugam commended their valiant efforts in alleviating the congestion at our borders, reports Channel NewsAsia.
He explained that only 10% of ICA officers are allowed to go on leave, while 90% usually remain behind to maintain operations.
This thinly stretches the lean manpower available over as many as 440,000 crossings during the festive period.
Bomb hoaxes, car breakdowns, queue-cutters
ICA’s many warnings about congestion along the Causeway stemmed from less than orderly behavior by travellers.
Bomb scares, vehicular breakdowns and inconsiderate queue-cutters were blamed for aggravating the jams along the already crowded Causeway from 14-16 Dec.
During peak periods of travel, ICA officers are tasked to work doubly hard to screen our borders thoroughly.
Closed counters due to redeployment
You may notice closed counters during the festive periods. They’re actually shuttered because officers are redeployed to other areas which require their help.
This means that Arrival immigrations officers may move over to the Departure section, if the need arises.
The rationale, according to Mr Shanmugam, is to “clear the backlog” as efficiently as possible. He explains that the closed counters don’t indicate that some officers are “sitting around doing nothing”.
On the contrary, he quips,
All are fully deployed and are working their guts out. It’s a very tough environment.
Tech can help, but there are limits
ICA has explored the use of technology to help ease up on the congestion issues. But their efforts are limited by physical constraints.
Take Woodlands Checkpoint for instance. The compound cannot simply accommodate more counters, or allow the clearance of more vehicles at one go.
Where regular traffic is concerned, tech advancements do help. But the demand surge during festive periods imposes further “limitations”.
Minister Shanmugam affirms the government’s commitment to looking at “longer-term solutions”, and that more details will be revealed shortly.
Upgrading the infrastructure of our checkpoints to cope with more traffic, or investing in automated clearance gates using retina eye scans could keep our borders secure.
But in the near future, we’d expect an officer to man or woman the booth still.
One person makes all the difference
We hope these hardworking officers will be able to claim their OT offs and travel somewhere nice soon. At least, once they survive the crazy year-end traffic as 2018 draws to a close.
The next time you encounter a flustered ICA officer in your booth after standing in line for hours, try smiling as you hand over your red passport.
A friendly smile will help lift the atmosphere entirely in an already tense situation. More importantly, thanks for keeping our borders safe ICA!
Featured image from Nestia.