Stateless woman in a limbo

Ong showing her British Overseas Citizen passport which she renewed until 2025 at The Star office in Jalan Masjid Kapitan Keling.

IT was 14 years ago when Ong Kah Phaik made a decision to give up her Malaysian citizenship for the British Overseas Citizen (BOC) passport.

Ong only realised her folly later as the BOC does not give automatic British citizenship and she needed a visa to stay there.

“It also doesn’t give you the right to work in the United Kingdom, which I had to do illegally from 2004 to 2009,” said the 40-year-old mother of three when met at The Star’s office in Jalan Masjid Kapitan Keling.

“Only when my employer decided to renew my passport did he realise I couldn’t work. So I packed my bags and returned to Malaysia in 2009.

“The British lawyer who handled my application said I must give up my Malaysian citizenship for the passport.”

Ong married a Malaysian two years her senior in 2010 and settled down in Penang, which is her hometown, renewing her Malaysian visitor’s pass every five years.

Her husband, a tower crane operator, suffered a stroke recently and Ong has been hunting for a job to sustain the family.

“My husband was relegated to light duties, which reduced his income, and we have three children between ages five and eight.

“I applied for a ride hailing licence and they needed a MyKad for registration, which I don’t have.”

Ong claimed that she was not the only one in such a predicament as there were others she knew who gave up their Malaysian citizenship for the BOC.

According to information found online, the BOC is a class of British nationality largely granted under limited circumstances to people connected with former British colonies.

Individuals with this nationality are British nationals and Commonwealth citizens but not British citizens.

Prior to 2002, British Overseas citizens from Malaysia were able to petition for British citizenship.

However after the passing of the UK’s Nationality Immigration and Asylum Act 2002, these requests were no longer considered.

But some Malaysian BOC applicants had continued with their applications and renounced their Malaysian citizenships.

Due to differences in how the governments recognise nationality renunciation, both the British and Malaysian governments consider this group of individuals as nationals of the other country and refuse to give them any form of permanent status.

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