Singapore to deport 53 after rare riot; drops charges against 7

SINGAPORE Tue Dec 17, 2013 6:32am EST

A view from a high-rise flat shows two overturned police cars (C) and several other damaged vehicles along Race Course Road following a riot near Singapore's Little India district December 9, 2013. REUTERS/Stringer

A view from a high-rise flat shows two overturned police cars (C) and several other damaged vehicles along Race Course Road following a riot near Singapore's Little India district December 9, 2013.

Credit: Reuters/Stringer

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SINGAPORE (Reuters) - Singapore plans to deport 53 people and issue warnings to about 200 more for their involvement in the city-state's worst riot in more than 40 years this month, which shocked a nation that prides itself on its safety and orderliness.

The riots sparked intense discussion over Singapore's policy on foreign labor, which now makes up a fifth of a population of nearly 5.4 million. Many citizens are increasingly irked by the growing numbers of foreign workers.

The 53 people, all Indian but for one Bangladeshi, are in prison and will be barred from returning to Singapore after being sent home soon, the police said in statements on Tuesday.

Charges against seven people would be dropped, taking to 28 the total number of foreign workers charged with rioting. These 28, all Indians, could face up to 7 years in prison and caning.

An additional 200 people will be issued an advisory by the police and allowed to stay in Singapore, the police added.

Police do not expect to make many more arrests or repatriations as they wind up their probe, barely 10 days after the riot.

On December 8, a crowd of around 400 set vehicles ablaze and clashed with police after an Indian worker died in a traffic accident in the Little India precinct, where thousands of workers from the sub-continent gather on Sundays to shop and socialize.

The government banned the sale of alcohol in the area last weekend, and suspended shuttle bus services that bring in foreign workers from dormitories, often located in far-flung parts of the island.

The government said it would stick to its policy on foreign labor.

"They (foreign workers) come here to earn a living and support their families in their home countries. In the process they contribute to Singapore by supplementing our need for workers," Deputy Prime Minister Teo Chee Hean said in comments prepared for a news briefing on Tuesday.

"Those who are law-abiding do not need to worry. They should carry on with their work and activities as usual," added Teo, who is also home affairs minister.

(Reporting by Rujun Shen; Editing by Clarence Fernandez)

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