As many as one thousand Malaysians who had hoped that by renouncing their native citizenship, they would qualify for a British passport, have found themselves stranded in limbo, according to lawyers.
Many now find themselves doing menial jobs far beneath their qualifications as they are classed as illegal migrants.
Their fate is in part the result of a quirk of Britain’s colonial past. When Britain’s colony of Malaya gained independence in 1957, the ethnic Chinese residents of Penang and Malacca feared discrimination by the country’s Muslim Malay majority.
They sought assurances from London and were granted the status of British Overseas Citizens (BOC). Hundreds of Malaysians took up the offer and moved to the UK in the 1980s and 1990s where they could register as British citizens after residing for five years.
But the immigration laws were toughened in 2002, denying the Malaysian BOCs any further opportunity to register as citizens.
Yet confusion over implementation meant many continued to apply and some cases have been left unresolved for years.
Letters sent by the UK immigration authorities told applicants they could not proceed unless they had renounced their Malaysian citizenship. Many filled in forms at the Malaysian High Commission in London, cut up their passports and renounced their citizenship.
But then an asylum and immigration tribunal ruling in July 2008 decided any Malaysian BOC who held, or had held Malaysian citizenship, had no right to reside in Britain.
It also decided that a Malaysian BOCs did not forfeit their Malaysian citizenship simply by renouncing it, though the Malaysian government disputes this.
Ben Scaro, an Australian lawyer representing the applicants, said: “We are looking at nearly 1,000 Malaysians who have given up their citizenship, are now BOCs, but have no right to stay in the UK.”
Among them is a 34-year-old man who wanted to be known as Dee, from Penang, who trained as an architect but can only get work as a dishwasher in a Chinese restaurant in London.
“I’m an illegal immigrant,” he said. “What makes it worse is the British Government saying it’s very hard to renounce Malaysian citizenship and declaring we’re still Malaysian. The Malaysian government says we’re not Malaysian any more, but British. It’s crazy.” Source: Daily Telegraph
The UK Border Agency has announced transitional arrangements for migrants who will be on the ‘journey to British citizenship’ when ‘earned citizenship’ is introduced.
The Borders, Citizenship and Immigration Act, which received Royal Assent on 21 July 2009, will radically change the way citizenship is granted to non-EU migrants.
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