Many local carriers offering services to Singapore have sent urgent written requests to the central government and aviation authorities to seek for support for economic damage caused by the entry denials the city-state had slapped on many of their Vietnamese passengers.
The airlines, including VietJet Air and Jetstar Pacific, have raised their voice again about one month after complaining to Vietnamese officials that many of their Vietnamese passengers, mostly women, had their entry to Singapore denied by the authorities there without any clear reasons.
In July, these Vietnamese airlines lodged a complaint to the Civil Aviation Authority of Vietnam that many of their passengers had been denied entry to Singapore and called for help from competent agencies.
As agreed by the governments of Vietnam and Singapore, Vietnamese people can stay in the city-state for 30 days without a visa.
The low-cost carriers said their passengers were not permitted to enter the island country even though they had all necessary documentation.
They then had to return home on the same airplanes of the Vietnamese carriers which had brought them to Singapore in accordance with current obligations, causing both the passengers and the airlines to incur extra costs.
Jetstar Pacific statistics showed that as many as 544 Vietnamese passengers had their entry refused by Singaporean authorities from November 2014 to July this year.
The biggest number of entry denials was 113, recorded in March 2015, a Jetstar Pacific representative told Tuoi Tre (Youth) newspaper.
Meanwhile, VietJet Air told Tuoi Tre that the number of its passengers suffering from the same situation when visiting Singapore was 1,515 in the first half of this year.
Such entry denials have also caused financial losses for the Vietnamese airlines as Singaporean officials required them to pay the additional expenses during the process of considering whether entry would be granted to a certain Vietnamese passenger.
The costs include 17 Singaporean dollars for each hour a Vietnamese passenger in question spend in detention rooms and another 32 Singaporean dollars for each hour an employee monitors the person, the airlines said.
A Jetstar Pacific representative said in the first seven months of 2015, the carrier paid 74,167 Singaporean dollars to Singaporean authorities, taking the total financial damage to the company to 107,315 Singaporean dollars since November 2014.
VietJet Air said that it lost 450,000 Singaporean dollars for the same reason in the first half and the airline has paid the extra costs worth more than one million Singaporean dollars since May last year.
These costs were separate from the expenditures the carriers were liable for when bringing those passengers having their entry denied back to Vietnam, the airlines said without elaborating.
A leader of Jetstar Pacific said that in principle the passengers had to pay the costs, but the carrier found that it was not able to collect the money from them after they returned to Vietnam.
According to Tuoi Tre findings, other carriers such as Vietnam Airlines and Singapore Airlines that operate on the Vietnam-Singapore air route have also faced the same situations, but their absolute numbers are relatively small compared to the low-cost airlines.
How Vietnamese women were treated
Talking to Tuoi Tre, V.H.Y. from Thu Duc District, Ho Chi Minh City, said she was temporarily detained in a room whereas her friends were allowed to enter Singapore after arriving on board the same flight in May.
Y. recounted that she spent over 30 minutes being interrogated and fingerprinted by the staff of the Singapore Immigration and Checkpoints Authority (ICA).
Together with her in the room of the ICA, there were a number of Vietnamese women being interrogated and some told her they were not permitted to enter Singapore without any clear reasons.
Singaporean authorities can absolutely use legal tools to severely punish those visitors actually breaking their law but they are not allowed to infringe upon the legitimate rights and dignity of those women wanting to enter Singapore for tourism purposes, V.H.Y. toldTuoi Tre.
Explanation from Singapore
The Vietnam National Administration of Tourism said it has received a letter from the Singapore Tourism Board (STB) confirming that the agency welcomes all Vietnamese visitors to the country.
The STB said there have been cases where certain Vietnamese visitors had their entry denied because they failed to show passports or valid documents.
Such visitors are often transferred to the ICA for additional interviews and they will be allowed to enter Singapore if meeting all entry requirements, the board added.
According to the STB, Singapore received more than 420,000 Vietnamese visits last year.