Wednesday Mar 29, 2023
Wednesday Mar 29, 2023

Malaysia deports Myanmar migrants despite court order

2021 Feb 23, 17:02, KUALA LUMPUR
In this image taken from a video, an immigration truck with unidentified people onboard is driven on a road that leads to Lumut Naval Base Tuesday, February 23, 2021 in Lumut, Malaysia. A Malaysian court on Tuesday ordered a halt to the planned deportation of 1,200 Myanmar migrants to hear an appeal by two human rights groups, which say the migrants included refugees, asylum seekers and minors. (Photo via AP)

Malaysian immigration authorities said on Tuesday they have deported 1,086 Myanmar migrants, breaking a court order to halt their repatriation following an appeal by two human rights groups.

Just hours earlier, a high court 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 stressed that they were all Myanmar nationals who were detained last year and didn't include any Muslim ethnic Rohingya refugees or asylum-seekers.

“All of them have agreed to return voluntarily without being forced by any parties," he said in a statement, adding that it was part of the department's normal repatriation programme.

The statement didn't mention the court order or explain why only 1,086 were deported instead of 1,200.

Amnesty International earlier said the court would hear its appeal Wednesday 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 centers in general, which Malaysia's government has denied since August 2019.

The immigration department earlier said the migrants were held for offenses 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 have 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 ongoing 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 lawmakers and senators also 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 doesn’t recognise asylum seekers or refugees, but has allowed a large population to stay on humanitarian grounds. It is home to some 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 from Myanmar since August 2017, when the military cracked down in response to attacks by a rebel group. The security forces have been accused of mass rapes, killings and the burning of thousands of homes.

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