12/18/2013, 00.00
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Clashes in Singapore , the government expels 53 immigrants. 28 others put on trial

The episode involves 52 Indian nationals and a worker originally from Bangladesh. Interior Minister promises zero tolerance against those who foment unrest. 28 were remanded in custody and will stand trial, they face up to seven years in prison and flogging. Activists worried about the "arbitrary expulsions".

Singapore (AsiaNews / Agencies ) - The Singapore government has decreed expulsion orders for 53 foreign workers involved in riots that erupted earlier this month and which left about 40 people injured. It was the most serious street protests in the city-state since 1969, where any public manifestation of dissent is rare. 28 other immigrants have to respond to charges of fomenting clashes in Little India neighborhood inhabited by a large majority of Indian Tamils, and will soon appear before the courts on trial. The defendants face up to seven years in prison and flogging.

The social unrest was sparked by a December 8 road traffic accident in which a 33 year old Indian immigrant was killed. In response, more than 400 workers held a one-day strike and protest. 39 people were injured in the clashes between protesters and police, including several officers , 25 vehicles were damaged or have been burnt .

The deportation order issued by the authorities concerns 52 Indian nationals and a worker originally from Bangladesh. Interior Minister Teo Chee Hean said that " the tough decision to prosecute and deport those who have taken part in the revolt means to send a strong signal that we do not tolerate acts that threaten the order and security of Singapore, wherever they may come from". He adds that the immigrants did not respond to the police order to disperse, causing a"threat to public order, and making their presence in Singapore undesirable".

28 other immigrants will be put on trial in the coming weeks.  Currently they are placed under custody, pending the closing of the investigation by the judiciary. Finally, 200 people who have had a minor role in the episode have been reported and have received a warning from the police, but they will not be expelled.

Human rights activists and members of the group Workfair Singapore, who are fighting for an improvement in the condition of migrant workers, stressed that "the arbitrary expulsion", without trial , is a source of "serious concern". The immigration department , they add, should not benefit from "arbitrary powers" that allow the revocation of passports, with no right of appeal and that the police can blame someone "without any practical evidence".

In the aftermath of the violence, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong has urged Singaporeans not to let an "isolated incident " tarnish the image of migrant workers, which had already occurred in recent events. They are more than a million in a city-state that needs foreign labor, partly because of a decline in population in recent decades imposed by family planning policies that have proven to be unsuccessful .

The prime minister has ordered the creation of a special commission of inquiry to shed light on the causes that led to the revolt. "We need immigrants - he added - and we have to figure out how to handle them better."

Smaller than New York and without natural resources, the city-state had a GDP of SGD$ 285 billion in 2010 (US$ 231 billion), posting a 14.5 per cent GDP growth for that year, the strongest in all Asia. However, wealth is not equally distributed and economic gains have accentuated the disparity between citizens, with an increase in the Gini coefficient - a statistical measure that represents unequal income distribution - to 0.48, up from 0.44 in 2000 (0 means perfect equality and 1 maximal inequality).


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