ICA Refused Entry to Singapore -part3

I believe it's about time to finish the story. Follow the links to read the first two parts if you wish to understand the story in detail. I tried the best I could to be detailed so that's why you have to read a long story.

When the other immigration officer called me to follow him to the back of the line, it was actually to exit the queue and go to a holding room. On the way, we stopped on one cubicle and the officer spoke with the one sitting inside who seems to be a senior officer and showed my passport and a printout she was holding. I asked the officer what is the meaning of all this and he explained it's because I have a pending application with the Ministry of Manpower (MOM), they will not allow me entry to Singapore this time. My mind stopped upon hearing the finality of his words and I could only think of my wasted money for my hotel booking and my plane ticket. With every rational thought eluding me, I could only ask one question.

Dejectedly, I asked the officer "So if the application is approved, can I still come back to Singapore?" The officer replied while printing a piece of paper to be my copy, "Yes, definitely. We are not banning you from entering Singapore again. In fact, we did not mark your passport if you notice." He stamped the paper then handed it to me adding, "And here is your copy acknowledging what you were just told." Feeling calmer from what I have heard, I thanked the officer and resigned myself to go through the whole ordeal and might as well prepare myself to document this experience.

On a nearby table, another lady passenger was getting searched inside out. They had her open her shoulder bag and check-in luggage, take everything out, and inspect every corner of her bags. One lady officer helped her check each clothes pocket (even the folded pants in her luggage) and kept asking if she went to Singapore before with a different passport. She kept denying it but when they found an ID card inside her bag with a different first name, the officer got angrier saying, "So what do you call this? Is this picture not you? Are you denying this?"

Nervously the lady replied, "Yes, but that was my nickname madam, coz we were allowed to use nicknames. The last name is the same. I didn't change my name madam." But the officer left her to bring the ID she found to their supervisor. Then she turned back and told her to pack her things.

This incident reminded me of a time I when I was working with a US company who encouraged us to use our nicknames in our ID cards, instead of the whole name. I then thought to myself that next time I get an ID, even if they tell me i'ts okay to use nicknames, I'll just use my full name anyway.

Then I was finally ushered to the holding room which is about 5 meters wide x 8 meters long (I prefer my measurements in meters than feet.). One corner is the entrance and the rest of the room is occupied by leather sofa benches. The glass walls are smoked and the door is locked, but on the wall beside the door is a speaker panel which can be used to request for officers to open the door if you need to use the toilet. There were eight women in the room as I entered: a Filipina mother with a child, two other Filipina ladies with ages around 28-38, two Thai ladies in short skirts and stilettos, and with super blond hair, a young-looking Indonesian, a Cambodian, and an Indian lady.

The room has CCTV on all corners and on the wall there are posters for "SILENCE". So, as I entered the room I could only eye the ladies but couldn't talk to them for fear of making noise. I've always been a good follower of rules, so even when they tried talking to me, I just pointed to the signage and kept quiet.

One of the two Filipina ladies was secretly sending SMS to his boyfriend using her cellphone while pretending to be looking for something inside her bag. Despite my silence, the other Pinay lady tried to talk to me in whispers and so I learned it's her third time going to Singapore and her second time being stopped by immigration. She thought she could make it this time coz she has an invitation from her Australian boyfriend but that didn't seem to work. As I listened, she shared me the story of the others in the room as she earlier learned.

- The other Filipina who is texting her Singaporean boyfriend is stopped for the 4th time now and she feared it would be her last as she might already be banned.

- The Indonesian girl has a maid permit, processed by an agency, but the immigration officers doubted her age declared on her passport as 21 because she looked like a 16 years old teenager.

- The Indian lady is the fiancee of an Indian national working in Singapore, and was told to return to her country, have her fiance come and marry her there and after they get married in her hometown, her husband can then get her a dependent visa.

- The mother and child were also stopped because their dependent visa applications are still in process and were not yet approved.

Curiously, nobody knows the story of the Cambodian and Thai girls as they don't speak Bahasa or English. I looked at them sadly and turned to my book, just in time that a lady officer opened the door and with eyes turned to the lady who was earlier whispering to me, she said, "I told you already, stay quiet, no phones, and no talking! I see you use your phone and I'll take it from you." I dared not open my handbag where my phone is and I saw the other lady clamped her bag shut.

In my conversation with the ladies, I learned that what will happen to us is what they call "AtoA" or Airport-to-Airport deportation.

The mother and child could not stop making noise because the child keeps running around and asking for his Papa, or milk, or water, or toy and the mother can't help but answer him. The two Thais looked aloof and weren't talking but more like angry and bored. The Indian lady is fidgeting, same as the Cambodian, while the Indonesian girl looks like she's about to cry. I learned from the ladies there that waiting can take from 2-3 hours as per their previous experience so scooting to the corner of one of the sofa benches, I sat down and continued reading the book I brought with me, the "Neuromancer" by William Gibson.

A few minutes passed and the lady I saw earlier who was being searched was ushered into the room. In whispers, she shared to us that she was accused of coming to Singapore before with a different name but she insisted she didn't and this is her first time to travel. I asked if she ever lent her documents to anyone and she was not sure. She said she's been working as a salesgirl in Manila and her documents were in the province. It was only recently when she was able to save up that she processed her passport and thought of going abroad to look for work. She never thought of asking her family if someone borrowed her documents or used her name (I guess I can imagine the officers' eyes rolling if they heard this.).

We waited for more than an hour and there's no stopping the baby from screaming as he got tired, sleepy and hungry, "Where's Papa? Why no out? 'want Papa! 'want milk! 'want out! Out! Out! Mama out!!!" His mom pleaded with the officers to let her go out and meet her husband outside to get the baby's milk. She is sure that her husband has water and milk with him because he knew the travel was long. Fortunately, the officers allowed her and her child to go out and get the supplies they needed. 20 minutes later, they were escorted back into the room with diapers and wet wipes, water, and milk.

Almost another hour passed before they started calling us out one by one. The first they called is the Indian lady, followed by the Thais, the Cambodian, the Filipino mother and child, then me. I was called out by a lady officer and brought to the opposite room where they took my digital fingerprints (all 10 fingers) and signature before returning to the room. There I noticed another holding room for men located on the opposite side of where we are being held. Once all of us were fingerprinted, two officers came by the door and told us to collect our things and follow them.

Helping the mother carry the baby supplies, we followed the immigration officers through several hallways and stairs and a travelator until we came to the airport holding cell for our lodging. We were told this is where we will stay until we are deported to our countries of origin.

In the lodging area, we met the other passengers, both men and women, who were also denied entry to Singapore. I actually saw two of my fellow passengers from LCCT in Kuala Lumpur.

We were asked to sign in on a logbook and take out all laptops and gadgets from our bags and deposit it together with the others' laptops and gadgets in one locker. One guy asked if he could at least bring his iPod Shuffle with him to relax him and sleep but it wasn't allowed. He was shouted at by one officer who said, "I know what's an iPod shuffle! Don't think that I don't know and stop making excuses. No gadget means no gadget!"

We were body searched and asked to remove everything from our pockets and keep it in our bags since we will be allowed into the room only with our clothes and shoes and nothing more. The rest of our bags were placed in separate lockers with two keys: one held by the immigration officer and one by each owner. The passports they kept on another locker.

Once everything was kept safe, we were ushered into a room full of bunk beds.  The room is dim and it's already 3:00am so I couldn't really count how many of the beds were occupied, but I counted at least 8 or maybe 9 double decks. I chose the upper deck on one of the center bunk beds and climbed up to see that a pillow and a blanket is already there. Exhausted from the experience, I tried not to imagine who used it before me and attempted to sleep despite the whispers and chatter around me. I heard at least two people were crying, but couldn't tell if it's the ladies who were already there or from those travelers I was with earlier.

Things were ablur the next day as we were awaken by an officer announcing that breakfast, coffee or tea is served. We were to get the packed foods at the hallway and drink our coffee or tea... and that was the time to meet each other and chat.

I met two beautiful Mongolian ladies, a Chinese, and had a longer chat with a three-months pregnant Indonesian lady who was feeling friendly and talkative. She told me she's been there for 6 days now coz she has no money to buy a ticket to go home. She was not sure what to do or how to contact his family to let them know of what happened to her since the officers won't allow the use of cellphones and won't allow us to call outside. She said her name is An Dini.

After the meal, I asked the officer at the logbook area what happens next, and he told me to wait. Anxiously, I sat and waited until another officer arrived some 30 or so minutes later. He told me to wait again, so I waited. Almost 10am when more officers arrived in the area to attend to the many anxious travelers. I asked when can I go home and they asked me if I have money.

"Yes sir I have. So when can I go home? Coz I really want to just go home. Please..."

I was shown to another officer who checked on the radio and told me that the next flight is 2pm but it's fully booked so the next available flight is at 8pm. I pleaded for him to check for the 2pm flight if possible so I could be on the waiting list, and if someone doesn't make it, can they have me instead? He made some calls and came back to to tell me I will be taking the 2pm flight. I thought my money was enough but when the bill was calculated, I was shocked! Really shocked I was quite afraid I couldn't make it home in the afternoon.

The plane ticket is fixed and of course it is expensive, but the surprise is the cost of food and lodging which was almost SG$480 in total. How can a stay of less than 24 hours cost so much? That's more than the cost of my 1 week hotel booking!!! My pocket money was not enough! Escorted by another officer, I went to an ATM machine and withdrew the money needed to settle the bills as I couldn't wait to get out of there and get a proper rest at home.

Upon learning I got a ticket to go home that afternoon, the Indonesian lady came to me and asked me for a favor - to contact her family and let them know of where she is. Having no paper nor pen to write, she tore a piece of the tissue box from the toilet and using her fingernails, she wrote the phone number of her family in Indonesia. The numbers were embossed I have to shine a light to see it but it is clear and readable. She gave it to me once we were inside the dimly lit room and I kept it in my bra to be safe and promised her I'll inform her family before giving her a hug. It's her mother's cellphone number.

By God's grace and protection, I arrived home safely in the evening. I bought cellphone top-up right away and tried calling the phone number of An Dini's family in Jakarta but it only kept ringing and no one was answering despite several attempts. I then sent three SMS messages telling them where An Dini is, how she is faring, and suggested they contact the embassy to assist her.

By 9pm that evening, I learned from a previous colleague about an ongoing job hiring in the city and was encouraged to apply.

As the tides turn, I was hired the next day and signing contract with a good position and nice salary offer in less than 24 hours.

Thanks God for the blessings!



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PinasLiving: ICA Refused Entry to Singapore -part3
ICA Refused Entry to Singapore -part3
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