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Transcript of Comments by Singapore Foreign Minister Prof S Jayakumar to the Media on 28 Feb 2002 in Bali, Indonesia, After the Two-Day Regional Ministerial Conference on People Smuggling, Trafficking

Q: Minister, there will be two experts' working group as a result of this conference, how effective are these two working groups?

A : Whether they are effective or not remains to be seen. I think for now, all we can say is that this conference has achieved its objectives in highlighting two things: one, that there is a real problem on people smuggling and to tackle it, it has to be done at the regional and international levels as well as at the national level by governments. Obviously, it takes both sides.

There seems to be a high degree of consensus that action has to be taken. From Singapore's point of view, we support it because as a small city state with a dense population, our experience has been that we have to take a hardheaded approach to illegal immigrants. We have informed colleagues of our experience and the need for international cooperation.

Whether there will be effective follow-up remains to be seen. But the intention is that the working groups will lead to effective sharing of information and cooperation. But I am confident that there is greater awareness now.

Q One quick question, Singapore is a wealthy nation even though it is a small country, can we do more to take in more of the genuine immigrants?

A: We have a big debate on immigrants and refugees. As far as we are concerned, we have had no choice but to take a very strict view on illegal immigrants because if you take a soft approach, there will be no end to it, and that has been the experience of other countries. We have to take a very hardheaded approach because there are criminal syndicates behind this. Criminal syndicates reflect the supply side and if you do not take a hard nose view on this, then it leads to a situation where there would be even more and more trafficking in illegal immigrants.

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