Singapore — In Parliament on Monday (Jul 26) Law and Home Affairs Minister K Shanmugam explained that the category allowing girlfriends and boyfriends of Singaporeans to enter the country got scrapped after abuses were committed.
The Minister was speaking in the context of the KTV lounge Covid cluster that emerged two weeks ago, which ended up infecting hundreds.
The first patient infected in the cluster was a Vietnamese woman who had got into the country via sponsorship from her Singaporean boyfriend under the Familial Ties Lane.
This category had been created in Oct 2020 because the government “wanted to be compassionate” toward the people who had been separated from their partners during the pandemic, and who had appealed to the authorities to allow their loved ones into Singapore.
But this channel that people used to get into Singapore has since been scrapped since authorities realised people were abusing it.
Mr Shanmugam said that authorities grew wary after receiving numerous applications under this category.
“ICA started to receive many applications for the Vietnamese to come into Singapore under the boyfriend/girlfriend category.
People were quite inventive. We looked at it, scratched our heads, the applications raised concerns.”
By March of this year, the category was scrapped “because we took the view this was being abused,” he added.
The Minister called some applications “dodgy,” especially when a Singaporean citizen would file several applications to sponsor multiple “girlfriends,” or if a lone Vietnamese woman would have several sponsors who said she was their girlfriend.
In some cases, the sponsors trying to get their “girlfriends” into the country were already married.
In others, the sponsors could not provide sufficient proof of their relationships with their “girlfriends.”
“When we looked at these applications for girlfriends, and they’re all primarily girlfriends to come in, we decided this won’t do. We have to stop this,” the Minister added.
Earlier in his speech, Mr Shanmugam alluded to a Jul 23 opinion piece in Nikkei Asia which had suggested that the authorities knew that all KTV lounge operators who wanted to pivot to food and beverage (F&B) establishments would commit illegal activities.
He said, “It has been suggested: We should have assumed or known that KTVs will cheat, allow themselves to become semi-brothels, even though they were only allowed to provide F&B.
We were neither in cahoots nor as naive.
Should we have said, no you cannot convert to F&B?
… realistically, the people who are going to cheat, going to do illegal things, will do them anyway. They will use lounges, flats, warehouses, various places, it goes on, regardless of whether we allow the change to F&B.”
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