Malaysia the only place I call home, says 25-year-old waiting for citizenship despite Malaysian mum
KUALA LUMPUR, May 19 — Despite being born to a Malaysian mother, 25-year-old Afique Danial Izzad Bogers is still waiting for his Malaysian citizenship and to be able to stay in Malaysia permanently.
Danial was born in Rotterdam, Netherlands and had briefly lived in different countries previously, but considers Malaysia to be his only home.
After the Malaysian government refused to recognise him as a citizen because he was born outside of Malaysia to a Malaysian mother, Danial had no choice but to take on his Dutch father's nationality to avoid becoming stateless.
Without Malaysian citizenship, Danial has limited options to legally remain in Malaysia with his family, but he has never considered "going back" to the Netherlands — where he had only spent one year after birth and could hardly call home.
"No, never. It was never an option, it was never something I wanted to do.
"Malaysia's been my home, I've raised the flag in racing, I've raised the flag in sports, it's the only place I want to be, this is my home. I don't even speak Dutch, so it makes it worse," he told reporters when met on Wednesday.
Why Danial is not a Malaysian citizen now
Danial said it was not in the family's plan for him to get a Dutch passport as they knew they would not be in the Netherlands for long and would eventually move back to Malaysia, and they wanted to have him be a Malaysian from the start.
"Then after I was born, suddenly, of course, the usual questions came, the questions that don't make sense. They told my mum, why didn't you fly when you were seven, eight months' pregnant?
"Which of course doesn't make sense because there's a risk of miscarriage. Why would a woman risk her child in her belly, you know that doesn't make sense, that's very, very insensitive to say.
"Of course there's all sorts of question marks, why did you marry a foreign husband? That was actually told to my mother before by an official, and it was really ridiculous," he said.
Under Malaysia's current citizenship laws, children born overseas to Malaysian fathers with foreign spouses can automatically be Malaysians.
But if their mother is a Malaysian married to a non-Malaysian, these children born overseas cannot automatically be Malaysians, but must apply for Malaysian citizenship — without any guarantee of approval.
These children can end up waiting for years to even get a reply from the Malaysian government, and could end up getting rejected without knowing why.
Danial said his attempts since the age of six to apply for Malaysian citizenship had been unsuccessful.
He said the National Registration Department (NRD) had even asked him and his father to fly back to the Netherlands to reprint his birth certificate just to get it stamped by the Malaysian embassy, and that the Malaysian authorities had continued to ask for more documentation even after such documents were provided.
"What more proof do you need that I'm a son of a Malaysian mother, I've been living here for an amount of years, it was a constant delay for nothing," he said.
The last time he had applied for Malaysian citizenship was early last year (after the High Court said Malaysian mothers' overseas-born children can get automatic citizenship), and this application has now been frozen due to that court case being pending at the Federal Court.
Danial has been unable to compete in championships as a professional motorcycle racer as he is not a Malaysian. ― Picture courtesy of Afique Danial Izzad Bogers
Deprived of opportunities
Because he is not a Malaysian, Danial has had to pay much higher fees for his education, in fact almost double for his university studies as he is considered as an international student.
"On top of that, growing up, I was an athlete, in football, I couldn't compete in many competitions. Even when I get offered a position in the team, I can't sign a contract until I'm 18 as a foreigner.
"So I moved on to racing, which is another sport I do as well. And when I went for any programmes — because it's hard to do racing with your own money, it's very expensive — so I needed to get support to get programmes.
"I went for the Asia Talent Cup programme, I was not accepted because I'm not Malaysian. Malaysian Cub Prix, I'm not allowed to compete because I'm not Malaysian, even though I had an offer already a few times," he said, adding that he has had to rely on private sponsorships for racing.
His career as a professional motorcycle racer is now on hold as he is unable to find any sponsors, since he is not under any programme currently.
Danial with the placard showing the slogan #SayaJugaAnakMalaysia, which is part of Family Frontiers' campaign for Malaysian mothers' overseas-born children to also be recognised as Malaysians. ― Picture courtesy of Afique Danial Izzad Bogers
Will Danial be separated from his family?
Danial's family moved back to Malaysia in 2003, and the family had also moved between Singapore and Malaysia due to his father's work and had also spent a year in Australia, but the decision was made in 2010 to permanently move back to Malaysia.
"It was actually my decision, because I just wanted to be back in my mother's homeland. I was about 11.
"I wanted to move back to Malaysia, and if I had known that this would be the result where I'm currently potentially forced to leave the country, I might have made a different decision. But it's simply because we wanted to move where we felt home, this was home to me," he said.
Currently, Danial's family — including his two siblings who were born in Malaysia — are able to stay in Malaysia legally. His father, who married the mother in Malaysia in 1995, is planning to apply again to be a Malaysian permanent resident.
As the only child not born in Malaysia, Danial was on a student visa as a university student, but the visa expired before he could complete his studies. He had deferred part of his studies due to disruptions amid the Covid-19 pandemic, and is hoping to complete his final semester.
He is now on a social pass, but plans to apply for both a residence pass and a permanent residency (PR) as a temporary measure to be able to remain in Malaysia. (According to the Immigration Department's website, a foreign national with family ties to a Malaysian can apply for a five-year residence pass at a rate of RM500, with the residence pass allowing them to study, work and set up a business in Malaysia.)
"Because we were fighting for the IC (identity card) first, because we wanted first and foremost for me to get a Malaysian IC. We were willing to give up my Dutch nationality, we don't need my Dutch nationality, we just want a Malaysian IC. So that was our main focus.
"So only now we realised to get an IC is near impossible at this point without a law reform, so that's why we are going for PR and residence pass," he said, when explaining why he did not apply for a PR previously and said he will accept whichever document that gets approved first.
This will be a stop gap measure, while he continues to wait for Malaysia to change its citizenship laws to enable him to be a Malaysian automatically via his birth to a Malaysian mother.
The Cabinet in February this year agreed to amend the Federal Constitution to enable Malaysian mothers' overseas-born children to have automatic Malaysian citizenship, and Home Minister Datuk Seri Saifuddin Nasution Ismail on March 23 told the Dewan Rakyat that the government expects to be able to table such law changes in Parliament in September this year.
Slogans in support of Family Frontiers' #PindaPerkara14 campaign, which calls for Malaysia to carry out law reforms to give Malaysian mothers equal rights as Malaysian fathers to pass on citizenship to their children. ― Picture by Ahmad Zamzahuri