LONDON: More than 100 Malaysian British Overseas Citizens (BOCs) staged a peace march yesterday as part of their campaign to lobby for British citizenship.
Most of them are from Penang and Malacca who had renounced their Malay-sian citizenship but now find themselves stateless as they are not entitled to British nationality.
They are part of over 500 BOCs in Bri-tain who are in a quandary after being misled into giving up their Malaysian passports as a route towards acquiring British citizenship.
Holding placards and banners declaring “Where is our home?” and “We are victims of limbo,” they marched from Westminster Abbey to the Home Office nearby at about 1pm, attracting attention from the lunch-time crowd.
A six-member delegation later presented a letter to Immigration Minister Phil Woolas’ private secretary Oliver Ferrari, seeking a meeting with the minister to look into the plight of the Malaysian BOCs.
Among those in the group were two BOCs identified only as Tracy and Edward, London Chinese Information and Advice Centre’s Malaysian chairman councillor Edmond Yeo, London Citizens’ co-ordinator Jessica Jones, Brentwood vicar-general Father John Armitage and St Bonaventure School’s head student Senyo Aidm.
“The BOCs have been poorly advised, causing them to live in destitution, fear and exploitation,” said Yeo, who was among the community leaders who turned up to give their support.
These former Malaysians acquired BOC status by virtue of being born in Penang and Malacca before 1983 following an amendment to the British Nationality Act, which created a residual BOC category.
Newlywed Lim, who is one of those affected, said he felt sad that he could not go for his honeymoon in Paris despite being married nine months ago.
“We’ve saved money for the trip but it’s still a dream as I am stranded in Britain,” said the 33-year-old Penangite.
Lim is facing an even worse predicament, as his BOC passport, along with his Malaysian driving licence and cut-up Malaysian passport, were seized by the Home Office two years ago.
He was then detained for overstaying, spending 18 days in four detention centres, including sleeping in Heathrow Airport.
“It’s been a living nightmare. I don’t know whether I’ll be arrested or thrown into a detention centre on my next visit,” said Lim, who gave up his Malaysian citizenship in 2006 to apply for Indefinite Leave to Remain status in Britain.