the need for dual nationality

What happens when a country you are in whakapapa does not allow dual citizenship? Erika Elers and Lydia Joyce look at the choice you sometimes have to make, what it looks like, and how the Maori concept of whakapapa might help you.


No matter how tall the tree is, its leaves will return to its roots

Double nationality. Is it a privilege or a right? For many Kiwis who have family and whakapapa abroad, there is no doubt. But not for other Kiwis who come from countries that have made dual citizenship illegal. With more and more Kiwis becoming ethnically diverse, the demand for all countries to legalize having more than one nationality is growing.

In 2020, we met at Te Herenga Waka (Victoria University of Wellington), through the Asian Law Students Association. Like all other students, we grew closer to the pressures of work and study, but unlike our peers, we soon discovered a common struggle regarding our national status.

树高千丈,叶落归根 No matter how tall the tree is, its leaves will return to its roots. Image: Photo by AMAL BEN SAAD on Unsplash

So many of our friends and families had to choose. It’s not an easy decision, and many people don’t have to make it because countries like England, Australia, the Philippines, and Thailand allow dual citizenship.

Currently, in Asia, eight countries do not allow dual nationality (China, Malaysia, Thailand, India, Indonesia, Nepal, Japan and Singapore). The countries we both returned to; Singapore and Japan have citizenship laws which respectively prohibit nationals from exercising the rights that derive from another nationality and reserve the right to deprive them of their citizenship. Meanwhile, seven other countries are heavily restricting dual citizenship requirements, including South Korea.

Asking us to choose a nationality is like asking us to abandon a parent. It’s not even for any particular reason, it’s just because it is.

As people who have had to live with the effects of these laws and have suffered the consequences, we need to discuss why dual citizenship should be legal everywhere: why it matters and why it needs to be legalized.

Dual nationality is not uncommon.

In 2011, more than half of all governments in the world had policies allowing emigrating citizens to retain their original citizenship without any restrictions. In fact, New Zealand has allowed dual citizenship since New Zealand citizenship was established in 1949. As a young country, a large majority of our population is made up of people who can trace their whakapapa to other countries. such as the UK, Samoa or China. Currently, 64 countries allow their citizens to hold more than one nationality, but the biggest exceptions are found in Asia.

This resistance to easing restrictions exists for a number of reasons ranging from the continent’s difficult experience with war and colonization to a strong nationalist leaning towards monoculturalism. Another often-cited reason against dual nationality is that it splits the loyalties of individuals. In the case of a young country like Singapore, there were fears that immigrants would use Singapore as a “stepping stone” to better opportunities abroad and in particular use their secondary citizenship to evade enlistment in national service ( a two-year term in one of Singapore’s uniformed services). Because obviously these days when developed nations rarely go to war, the most important question to ask multinational corporations is which country they would defend in war.

However, people who experience these restrictions are only more likely to leave. Speaking with our peers in similar situations, the vast majority have chosen or are considering renouncing citizenship which prohibits dual nationality. They explain that although both nations are part of their identity, being forced to choose just one can cause resentment. Compare it to your parents forcing you to choose one or the other. It’s easy to see why you’d choose the parent who never imposed such an ultimatum in the first place.

This closed approach also fails to take into account the advantages of multinational citizens. They strengthen ties between countries and advocate multiculturalism. Economically, companies can more easily send dual nationals to work abroad without work visa restrictions. The Philippines has benefited for decades by being a major source of talent in the international labor market, while the remittances sent by migrant workers benefit the local economy. A well-known example around the world is healthcare, but Filipino workers also support the construction industry in New Zealand.

The Philippines has provided migrant workers to other countries in areas such as health and construction. Those with dual citizenship (as permitted by Philippine law) offer economic benefits to their home country without excessive visa fees. Photo by Josh Olalde on Unsplash

As mixed-race individuals, the reality is creating a sense of unease. Living life, we receive many unsolicited comments drawing boundaries on our own faces and bodies

“Your eyes are definitely whiter but you have Asian eyebrows.”

“Are you sure you are Maori? You are so pale”.

The Chinese proverb at the head of this article emphasizes our desire to connect and contribute to our roots so it hurts all the more when the nations that so visibly define us also choose to reject us on such a fragile basis as “and if there was a war? Even if there is a chance to return to this country, ex-nationals will always feel the loss of this connection. It won’t be the same.

In Aotearoa, where so many Kiwis of different backgrounds face discrimination, identity issues and racial stereotyping, Maori can be said to openly view all Maori descendants as native to New Zealand. Compared to Asian culture, in te ao Māori, there is no “half of that” or “quarter of that”. Whakapapa is whakapapa, pure and simple.

We want this same understanding that Maori share about whakapapa to be shared with countries like Japan and Singapore. If all countries understood whakapapa, perhaps dual nationality wouldn’t be illegal and the world would be more willing to grant multi-ethnic people more than one nationality.

In a perfect world, we would want our children and future generations to live, breathe and share the same cultures, languages ​​and environment as us. When a mestizo participates in one of his cultures, his participation is not proportional to his blood, he engages his whole being. At the very least, they should have the right to live, work and play in the countries where their parents, grandparents and whānau come from. Feeling seen, heard and validated for who they are and not ignored for being from another country or born somewhere else.

Mō tātou, ā, mō kā uri ā muri ake nei.

For us and our children after us.

The opinions expressed in this article are those of the authors.

– Asia Media Center

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