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Singapore to Deport 53 Foreign Workers After Little India Riot

Little India
People walk on the street in Little India district in Singapore on Dec. 15, 2013. Photographer: Roslan Rahman/AFP/Getty Images

Singapore said it will repatriate dozens of foreigners involved in the city’s first riot in more than four decades, as police prepared to end investigations.

The authorities will deport 52 Indians and one Bangladeshi national for their involvement in the riot, Commissioner of Police Ng Joo Hee said in an e-mailed statement yesterday. Separately, a total of 28 individuals have been charged as of yesterday. Charges against seven were dropped.

“We have taken strong and decisive action to charge, and to repatriate those who took part in the riot to send a strong signal that we will not tolerate actions by anyone which threaten law and order in Singapore,” Deputy Prime Minister Teo Chee Hean said in a separate statement.

Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong has ordered an inquiry into the cause of the riot on the night of Dec. 8 in the Little India district, which draws thousands of foreign laborers. Discontent in Singapore over overseas workers has risen after years of open immigration spurred complaints about congestion and infrastructure strains at a time of widening income inequality.

The police don’t expect to make many more arrests, charges or repatriations in relation to the riot, according to the commissioner. About 200 people will be issued police advisories and allowed to remain and work in Singapore on condition of “good behavior,” Ng said.

Alcohol Ban

Singapore banned the sale and consumption of alcohol in Little India on Dec. 14-15 and suspended private bus services that ferry workers to the area. The police will announce revised measures regarding alcohol in the next day or two, Teo said.

The riot that broke out after a bus ran over and killed an Indian national has reignited the debate about Singapore’s dependence on foreign laborers.

The island’s authorities prosecuted five Chinese nationals and deported 29 others over their involvement in an illegal strike in November last year, in what had been an unusual public display of labor discord. The striking workers, all from China, were unhappy with their salary increments and raised concerns about living conditions, according to their employer SMRT Corp.

The Indian and Bangladeshi workers to be deported, who were employed by 48 different companies, won’t be charged in court, said Ng, the police commissioner. They will be issued “stern” warnings and be prohibited from returning to Singapore, Deputy Prime Minister Teo said.

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