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19 year old born, bred ‘Singaporean’, asked to leave as foreigner

By Terry Xu

Update: Nadirah is in the process of applying for a long term dependent pass and because of this, she is unable to work in the jobs offered by various concerned business owners. TOC is in contact with her and will update if she is able to have her pass approved in a month's time.

Update: Finally, a reply from MSF. Nadirah is said to be fine but TOC is unable to have any other information from the officer in charge of the case.  We have lost communications with Nadirah since a few months ago.

Nadirah, a young teenage girl who was born 19 years ago in Singapore, had stayed in Singapore for the entire 19 years and lived like how all her friends did, but will soon be asked to leave from Singapore to a country which she does not know anyone nor able to speak the native language.

A close look at Nadirah, you would find her as Singaporean as anyone could be, in terms of manner and speech. Classmates of Nadirah might find it hard to accept that she actually holds a Filipino citizenship despite staying in Singapore for practically her entire life.

Nadirah was born out of wedlock in Singapore and given a Filipino citizenship, as her mother was a Filipino. Along with her five siblings, two other siblings are also non-citizens while the other three siblings were given citizenship as her parents got officially married in Philippine before they were born.

Due to family issues, the six siblings were referred to Ministry of Social & Family (MSF what was known as MCYS till recently) in 2006. Apart from housing Nadirah and her five siblings at Jamiyah Children’s Home (JCH), the ministry had tried its best to assist her in applying for citizenship within its means.

Since 2010, her family has been trying to apply for her permanent residency but in vain with no clear indication of the reason behind the rejection.

In 2012, Nadirah tried to apply for her citizenship with Immigration and Checkpoint Authority (ICA) stating in its reply,

“We have considered your appeals carefully. We regret to inform you that the appeals have not been successful. Nevertheless, you can continue to study and reside here on your valid Student’s Pass”.

Given the open-ended replies from ICA, Nadirah can only guess that her applications were probably rejected due to her father’s frequent brush with the law.

For all these years, Nadirah’s education fees are of a foreigner due to her citizenship ever since primary one, which gave her family tremendous financial burden.  At one point, she worried for her tertiary education, she had no money to pay for the school fees, and as she is a non-citizen, she is not eligible for any bursaries. But fortunately a NGO, Akaraka assisted her in paying for her school fees putting her through ITE.

Nadirah's childhood has not been pleasant and neither did it change for the better for years as a teenager. She had been placed in the care of JCH since young and later stayed with her grandparents to care for them. Her mother currently maintain minimum contact with her and her father has severed ties with Nadirah and her siblings

Even with such a troubling family background, she never gave up on herself to excel. Nadirah had been active in her school’s extra curriculum activities as well as being an exemplary student in her school where she managed to clinch a position of top 14th in her school for ’N’ levels during her secondary education.

Apart from MSF’s assistance for her predicament, she has sought the assistance from Members of Parliament such as K Shanmugam, Wong Kan Seng, Zainudin Nordin, Hri Kumar and Josephine Teo.

In view of her dire situation, MP K.Shanmugam, MP Wong Kan Seng and MP Josephine Teo have all specially helped Nadirah to write a letter to ICA to appeal for her citizenship. But ICA still rejected her applications nevertheless with no apparent reason given.

As Nadirah graduates from ITE, she will soon be asked to return to Philippine once her student visa expires in a month’s time. To be relying on relatives whom she never spoken to for years and a country where she has no memory of, the situation looks utmost depressing for this young lady with an uncertain future.

“All I have ever wanted was to be called a Singaporean because this is where I grew up and have lived so far and I can only see a good future for me and my family in this wonderful land I call home.” said Nadirah.

What she could do now apart from hoping that ICA will re-look at her citizenship appeal or to find a company that could employ her as a staff so that she could stay in Singapore with a work permit.

It is sad to see a home grown ‘Singaporean’ sent overseas to fend for herself simply because there is some unknown reason that deters citizenship to be given. Things could be clearer for people like Nadirah if the reasons are given for the rejection. And one is to wonder how many more such cases, which are similar to Nadirah out there.

Now that her grandmother has just passed away, Nadirah is now staying in her friend’s home. As the days go by closer to her day of departure, she grows desperate for any faint hope to stay in Singapore where she still calls it home.