From 10 calls for help in 2011, AWARE received some 50 of such distress calls last year.
That’s the extent to which foreign brides are increasingly left to fend for themselves because their Singaporean husbands are absent, or abusive.
These women find themselves stuck in a rut, especially those with children, when their spouses turn violent, abandon them, or fall ill and die.
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The Fei Yue Family Service Centre has seen a 20 to 30 percent increase in such calls for help compared to five years ago.
The Catholic-run Archdiocesan Commission for the Pastoral Care of Migrants and Itinerant People received 240 calls compared to 210 calls in 2011.
This increase in helplessness faced by foreign brides follows the trend of more Singaporean men marrying foreign wives.
Over the past 10 years, more than 50,000 Singaporeans married foreign women – women who aren’t PRs or citizens.
Such marriages accounted for 1 in 5 marriages in 2014, when 5126 Singaporeans said “I do” to foreign wives.
Foreign wives are more vulnerable when their husbands abandon them as they don’t have residence status in Singapore.
They also don’t have family members here to rely on.
Some prefer to endure spousal abuse just so they can stay on in Singapore because they’re counting on their marriage to renew their long-term visit plus passes, which can stretch for up to 5 years upon renewal.
Finding a job to support themselves and their children is tough as they need to seek permission from the Ministry of Manpower first.
Even when they do find jobs, such labour is usually low-paying because they lack qualifications.
Things also get tricky when it comes to housing – foreign brides are not eligible to buy or rent public flats, which are essentially the lowest-cost housing option.
In 2014, 16.9 percent of all babies (7146 newborns) had a Singaporean father and non-citizen mother.
The Ministry of Social and Family Development says such children can benefit from government subsidies such as childcare, education and medical care.
Social welfare groups have urged the government to do more to help foreign brides in need, especially those with children.