Tuesday, January 13, 2004

Immigration Enforcement, Singapore-Style

America and Europe aren't the only places in the world where the enforcement of immigration laws are an issue, as this Hindustan Times article makes clear.

Fourteen men from Tamil Nadu, who had overstayed in Singapore, returned to Chennai on Friday after being whipped and having their heads shaved.

"Our only guilt was that we overstayed," said Balayian, a construction worker who had gone to Singapore on a six-month visa. "For this we were treated worse than animals before being deported."

Balayian said that after being rounded up for overstaying, Indians, particularly Tamils, were stripped down to their underwear and forced to live in the compound of the immigration office in Singapore. They were not even allowed to bathe or shave.

"We spent three months in jail where we were whipped and then our heads were shaved before we were deported," said Chandrabose, another Indian worker.

The workers' savings were taken from them and their suitcases smashed by the authorities, the workers complained.

I don't doubt that the sort of thing detailed in this article has the desired deterrent effect, but then again, so do the amputations and beheadings prescribed according to some readings of Sharia. There are some measures that are simply a bit much for decent people to stomach, even if they work as intended. Would we really want to go back to the Code of Hammurabi, or the harsh Legalism of the Ch'in Dynasty, however efficacious they might be shown to be?