National pride gets hurt

High economic growth has lined the pockets of many Vietnamese, fueling demand for overseas travel.

This is evident in strong growth in outbound tour sales at local tourism companies in the country.

Regional countries like Thailand, Singapore and Malaysia have become destinations of choice as tour prices are affordable and no entry visa is required for ASEAN citizens who pay short visits.

Furthermore, many Vietnamese tourists have many times repeated their visits to these places thanks to the increasing availability of cheap air tickets.

However, an increasingly big number of Vietnamese travelers, particularly women, have been stopped at Changi airport by Singapore immigration authorities for interrogation and many of them have been denied entry and sent back home for unknown reasons.

Lots of Vietnamese tourists who do not speak English or who look helpless while waiting for their turns at immigration counters can be easily taken to a separate immigration control room.

A news report by Thanh Niên News says Singapore airport security officers are always on hand to rush those Vietnamese passengers who look helpless to the interrogation room while they queue for immigration procedure.

To some extent, the way Singapore immigration officers treat Vietnamese female passengers amounts to humiliation.

Speaking to Thanh Niên News, a Hồ Chí Minh City-based journalist describes the behavior of a female immigration officer at Changi airport as unacceptable.

When this journalist came to Singapore last month together with her mother and small daughter to visit her younger sister who had just given birth to the first child, the serious-looking immigration officer asked her how much money she had.

When the Vietnamese journalist said she had S$2,000, the immigration officer ordered her to show it and even do the counting in front of a lot of other people.

She said she had never been so humiliated.

Vietnamese_touristVietnamese tourists at Singapore’s Changi airport

Another Vietnamese tourist who is a businesswoman told the paper that she was taken to a room for interrogation after she arrived at Changi on a Việt Nam Airlines flight as she did not speak English.

Immigration authorities took her fingerprint and photo and then let her wait there for almost an hour and a half as they were dealing with around 35 people, including 20 from Việt Nam.

Luckily, she was let go when they saw her address in Singapore and the name of her contact person who has a job in Singapore.

These are the typical cases handled by Singapore immigration authorities.

There is reason for Singapore authorities to boost the screening of Vietnamese tourists, according to local media.

Nguyễn Công Hoan, deputy general director of Hà Nội Redtours, says on the news site Infonet that Singapore’s heavy-handed handling of female tourists because many have come there for sex work.

Singapore immigration authorities have the right to deny any passengers entry without giving reasons, he adds.

However, the number of Vietnamese female passengers denied entry is so huge that a source from VietJetAir says the airline lost around VND15 billion (US$670,000) last year because it had never succeeded in getting back money from those passengers forced by Singapore to go back home.

The situation has raised the alarm about the need for urgent action on the part of Vietnamese authorities.

The Civil Aviation Authority of Vietnam (CAAV) this week requested the Ministry of Transport to work with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to seek explanations from Singaporean authorities.

This move comes after local airlines complained about the extra costs and troubles they have shouldered due to Singapore’s entry denials to a lot of Vietnamese female passengers.

CAAV has written to the Singapore civil aviation authority asking for a list of Vietnamese nationals who are discouraged from visiting Singapore, so that airlines can avoid unexpected costs and troubles.

Singaporean authorities have barred certain Vietnamese from entering their country, especially lone travelers with unclear purposes and those suspected of coming for illegal employment or immigration.

Nevertheless, such restrictions have hit those traveling there with legitimate purposes and even air carriers.

Airlines carrying passengers to Singapore are responsible for transporting those denied entry back to Việt Nam, and covering all costs before those passengers pay back. Normally these people do not pay after they are home, hence losses for airlines.

“Passengers disallowed to enter Singapore will be charged by hour and the total cost of a passenger may amount to US$150.

Since our launch of air service to Singapore, we have paid dozens of thousands of dollars to Singapore authorities a month.”

Tuổi Trẻ cites a local airline.

Last year, Vietnamese tourists were asked to show cash and photographed before entering Thailand, which sparked an uproar among Vietnamese tourists and travel firms.

This Thai regulation resulted from an increase in Vietnamese working in Thailand without work permits.

This time Singapore restricts Vietnamese tourists from entry, which has affected legitimate travelers and airlines, and hurt the Vietnamese pride.

ANH THƯ

Source: The Saigon Times

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