Stateless Woman Born In Singapore But Carries A Blue Identity Card

Ms Yuvethra Selvanaiyagam was born in Singapore and has been living in this country for 32 years now.

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Despite being born in KK Women’s and Children’s Hospital, she does not have a nationality, and does not even own a Singaporean passport or a pink identity card (IC).

Ms Yuvethra, whose father is Singaporean, has been trying to apply for a citizenship herself since she was 23 years old.

Stateless woman told she should marry a Singaporean to become a citizen

According to The New Paper, when she tried to seek help from her MP, one of the volunteers told her that it would be easier to be Singaporean if she married one.

To be told that she can only belong to a nation she was born in with the status of the man she is marrying, she felt it was unjust for someone who has known Singapore to be her home all her life.

Ms Yuvethra says she has every right to claim citizenship in Singapore because she was born here.

Her former fiance was not born in Singapore but managed to obtain citizenship just because he was a foreign talent with a high-earning position here.

During one of their fights, he even said that she could just marry him to be Singaporean.

This made Ms Yuvethra furious because she is being denied of her birthright while a man who came to Singapore to work could easily be a Singaporean.

She said,

How is it that someone who came here to work can be a Singaporean while I cannot?

Ms Yuvethra’s family background placed her in this predicament

51 years on, Ms Yuvethra is still affected by the repercussions of the Singapore-Malaysia separation. Circumstances at that point in time affected Ms Yuvethra.

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Ms Yuvethra’s father was a Singaporean but her mother was stateless. Her mother did not have a nationality because she was born during the tumultuous times when Singapore was going through a merger and separation with Malaysia.

It was not easy at that time to prove her mom’s nationality which rendered her mom stateless.

Her parents were traditionally married but did not own a marriage certificate as Ms Yuvethra’s maternal grandparents had passed on and no one was legal at that time to sign the marriage certificate.

Under the eyes of the law, Ms Yuvethra was born out of wedlock and when her parents separated, she took after her mom’s “nationality”.

Being stateless affected her as a teenager

Since Ms Yuvethra was stateless, she faced social alienation throughout her growing years and employers often mistook her to be a fugitive or a person in search of asylum.

These are the emotional turmoil Ms Yuvethra has to face on a daily basis and the inability to obtain her citizenship impaired her future.

At the tender age of 15, Ms Yuvethra left school to find a job as school fees are simply too costly for a non-Singaporean.

Without completing her education and without a nationality, it was difficult for Ms Yuvethra to get a job in Singapore.

She could only apply for part-time or contractual occupations and she once had to quit being a teacher at a pre-school as she could not take on the position at a Vietnam school.

Ms Yuvethra told The New Paper, “I had dreams and ambitions, too. I wanted to be an aid worker in overseas humanitarian missions but I cannot travel.”

Every single time Ms Yuvethra is denied citizenship by the Immigration and Checkpoints Authority (ICA), she upgrades herself by taking technical courses in hopes of improving her chances the next time around.

Her fourth application to ICA had just been rejected last year.

Ms Yuvethra’s first full-time job

She found her first full-time job as a restaurant manager only in 2015, and she owes it to an employer who sees pass her stateless status.

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The founder of The Uppercut Bistro and Bar, Ms Nancy Lee employed Ms Yuvethra as her restaurant manager with a stable salary of $2000 per month.

Ms Lee said, “Ms Yuvethra is a hard worker, talented, smart and able to quickly adapt to her work. Employers should not shun stateless persons like her and give them a chance to prove to the authorities that they can contribute to the country.

“She is practically a Singaporean.”

Ms Yuvethra said that for stateless persons, finding a good job before getting citizenship is a chicken-and-egg problem.

Ms Yuvethra is never giving up

Ms Yuvethra reached out to The Prime Minister’s Office on Facebook but she did not receive any reply.

She even admitted,

I feel like an alien in my own homeland.

Ms Yuvethra added “I’m still young. I still have dreams that I want to achieve.”

The first step to her dreams is of course, getting that Singaporean passport and pink IC.

Featured image adapted from Facebook.