Malaysia deports Myanmar migrants despite court order
Malaysia’s immigration authorities say they have deported 1,086 Myanmar migrants, breaking a court order to halt the repatriation following an appeal by two human rights groups.
A high court had hours earlier granted a one-day stay order for the deportation of 1,200 Myanmar migrants to hear an appeal by Amnesty International Malaysia and Asylum Access Malaysia, which said refugees, asylum-seekers and minors were among those being sent back.
Immigration chief Khairul Dzaimee Daud said the 1,086 had agreed to return home voluntarily on three Myanmar naval ships. He claimed they were all Myanmar nationals and did not include any Muslim Rohingya refugees or asylum-seekers.
The statement did not mention the court order or explain why only 1,086 were deported instead of 1,200.
“All of them have agreed to return voluntarily without being forced by any parties,” Mr Daud said in a statement, adding that it was part of the department’s normal repatriation programme.
Amnesty International called the decision “inhumane and devastating”.
“It appears the authorities railroaded this shockingly cruel deportation before any proper scrutiny of the decision,” the group said in a statement.
“This life-threatening decision has affected the lives of more than a thousand people and their families, and leaves an indelible stain on Malaysia’s human rights record, already in steep decline over the past year.”
The rights group earlier said the court would hear its appeal tomorrow and urged the government to reconsider its plans to send the migrants back home, where human rights violations are high following a February 1 military coup that deposed the country’s elected leader, Aung San Suu Kyi.
It urged the government to give the UN High Commissioner for Refugees access to the 1,200 migrants and all immigration detention centres in general, which Malaysia’s government has denied since August 2019.
The immigration department earlier said the migrants had been held for offences including not having valid travel documents, overstaying their visas and violating social visit passes.
But the two rights groups in their legal filing named three people registered with the UNHCR and 17 minors who had at least one parent still in Malaysia. The UNHCR has separately said there were at least six people registered with it among the group to be deported.
Amnesty International and Asylum Access said the repatriation is tantamount to legitimising human rights violations by Myanmar’s military and would put the migrants at risk of further persecution, violence and even death.
A group of 27 Malaysian legislators and senators sent a letter to prime minister Muhyiddin Yassin on Sunday urging him to halt the deportation. There was no response from the prime minister’s office.
Malaysia does not recognise asylum seekers or refugees, but has allowed a large population to stay on humanitarian grounds. It is home to 180,000 UN refugees and asylum-seekers — including more than 100,000 Rohingya and other members of Myanmar ethnic groups.
More than 700,000 Rohingya have fled Myanmar since August 2017, when the military cracked down in response to attacks by a rebel group. Security forces have been accused of mass rapes, killings and the burning of thousands of homes.