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Theresa Tan
Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Singapore

Poor state of stateless children

The Straits Times | Theresa Tan | Tuesday, May 27, 2014

This is the story of Nadiah, a 29-year-old unwed mother of five children aged eight, seven, six, four and three years old.

Her first two children are Singapore citizens, because she was a citizen when they were born.

But the three youngest have no nationality because she was declared stateless before she gave birth to them.

All five children have the same father, a 43-year-old Singaporean man. He is a dishwasher earning about $1,000 a month.

Nadiah has O-level qualifications and stays at home minding her children. She declined to explain why she never married her partner, saying they had "too many problems", such as making ends meet.

He is a Singaporean, but that does not help their three youngest children, because according to the law, it is the mother's citizenship that matters when a child is born out of wedlock.

Social workers trying to help the family say they have come up against hurdles repeatedly and everything leads back to the citizenship limbo that Nadiah and her three youngest children are in:

The three children are not in kindergarten. Nadiah says she cannot afford it because, as non-citizens, they are not entitled to subsidies and the fees would be too much.

They might not go to primary school. She cannot afford to pay their school fees as they will be charged the rate for foreigners - up to $500 a month for primary school, said social workers.

To stay in Singapore, Nadiah and the three children must renew special passes issued by the Immigration & Checkpoints Authority (ICA) every month.

Nadiah claims her citizenship mess stems from the fact that she did not take the Oath of Renunciation, Allegiance and Loyalty.

Certain individuals, such as those with dual citizenship and those born overseas to Singaporean parents, have to take this oath within a year of turning 21 or they lose their citizenship automatically, said the ICA.

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