Stateless Malaysians in UK can return, ministry tells DAP rep

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( – Some 500 alleged ‘stateless’ Malaysians in United Kingdom should be able to heave a sigh of relief after the Malaysian government gave its assurance to make arrangements for them to return.

It is viewed as a breakthrough by Tanjung MP Ng Wei Aik who persistently sought a resolution for the stateless Malaysians in UK, some of whom are living in squalor as they are not allowed to work there.

The individuals, some have given up their Malaysian citizenship, allegedly left for UK after applying for the British Overseas Citizenship (BOC) believing that it was a full-fledge UK nationality certificate.

In revealing the response given by Home Minister Datuk Seri Ahmad Zahid Hamidi in a written reply yesterday, Ng said the Malaysian government has agreed to provide immigration services to enable them to be here legally when they return.

The Home Ministry said discussions with the British government regarding the plight of BOC travel document holders in UK would also be conducted.

“A special counter will be set up in Kuala Lumpur International Airport (KLIA) so that the BOC holders can report to it when they arrive in Malaysia while a special immigration officer in KLIA will assist them.

“Zahid said the holders will be given advice before and after their return here through an immigration attache in UK, as well as officers in the immigration department here and Home Ministry,” Ng told a press conference.

However, the DAP representative said, those who had renounced their Malaysian citizenship would still be required to go to court to re-apply for their Malaysian status.

He said there has only been one successful case in 2005 where BOC holder Lee Thean Hock, then 50, whose Malaysian citizenship was ‘accidentally’ stripped by the Malaysian government over the BOC confusion, had his nationality reinstated.

The High Court heard that the government believed that the BOC certificate was equivalent to a British passport or citizenship.

“Although Lee’s judgment was a precedent because his nationality was stripped by Malaysia and not voluntarily by Lee, other BOC holders who voluntarily renounced their Malaysian citizenship will face a legal challenge.

“However, that is the only way they can apply for their Malaysian citizenship,” he said.

In December, Ng highlighted the issue involving Malaysians who were caught out by the `confusion’ BOC certificate meant after they left for UK and were allegedly told to renounce their Malaysian citizenship in order to obtain the status.

At that time, Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak said a BOC holder could still return to Malaysia as long as he or she did not renounce their citizenship here.

Najib pointed out that according to the British Nationality Act 1981, which came into effect on Jan 1, 1983, the BOC is only a travel document and not a right to British citizenship.