Malaysia defies court, deports over 1,000 Myanmar nationals
CAPE TOWN - Malaysia has deported 1,086 Myanmar nationals despite a court order temporarily stopping repatriation for fear the group may be at risk if they are returned to their military-ruled country.
The court order for the Myanmar nationals' return comes a week after Myanmar's military engaged in a coup, throwing Myanmar into crisis.
Myanmar citizens were bussed in from around Malaysia and loaded onto three navy ships sent by the military junta of Myanmar.
Malaysia is home to more than 154,000 asylum seekers from Myanmar.
A one-day temporary stay order was granted by the Kuala Lumpur High Court on Tuesday, awaiting a Wednesday hearing to place the deportation of the 1,086 refugees on hold.
Malaysia does not officially accept undocumented migrants and those deported have been prosecuted for immigration offences.
"All of those who have been deported agreed to return of their own free will, without being forced," said the prime minister's office and Immigration Department director-general Khairul Dzaimee Daud.
"The Immigration Department wants to emphasise that no Rohingya migrants or asylum seekers have been sent back," Daud said, according to Channel News Asia.
On Sunday, a group of 27 Malaysian legislators and senators sent a joint letter to Malaysian Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin, asking him to postpone the deportation.
Refugee groups have stated that among those being deported are refugees from minority groups Chin, Kachin and non-Rohingya Muslim communities fleeing war and oppression at home.
Four opposition lawmakers questioned whether the expulsion amounted to contempt of court and requested officials to provide more information on the deported immigrants.
"Malaysia's immigration authorities have shown a blatant disregard both for the basic rights of Myanmar nationals and an order by the Malaysian High Court," said Linda Lakhdhir, legal adviser for Human Rights Watch Asia.
After the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) reported that at least six people registered as refugees were among those expected to be detained, Amnesty International Malaysia and Asylum Access Malaysia jointly applied for a judicial review, which was reviewed on Wednesday via video conferencing by High Court judge Datuk Seri Mariana Yahya.
The Attorney General’s Chambers (AGC) objected to the application for leave for judicial review, querying whether the two groups had the legal standing to file such a lawsuit.
Amnesty International said three people registered with the UNHCR and 17 minors with at least one parent in Malaysia were among the deported.
"The Malaysian government's decision to deport people in defiance of an order from the High Court today was inhumane and devastating," said Katrina Jorene Maliamauv, executive director of Amnesty International Malaysia.
According to Malay Mail, the Malaysian Immigration Department insisted there were no asylum seekers among the 1,086 Myanmar citizens deported.
Yet Amnesty International has said that is false and that authorities "rail-roaded this shockingly cruel deportation before any proper scrutiny of the decision, despite week-long calls for a proper assessment of the people on the list".
Human Rights Watch, Fortify Rights and others had called on Malaysia to allow UNHCR access to the detainees to determine whether any refugees were among them or might qualify as refugees or whether they were illegal immigrants, but such permission has yet to be granted.
"An event like today's deportation, undertaken in secrecy and without access for the UN to vulnerable people, must never be allowed to happen again. We call on Malaysian authorities to respect its obligations under international human rights law, to ensure safe and voluntary repatriation, with access to UNHCR to assess those being deported," Maliamauv said.
Asylum Access confirmed that the returning migrants were said to include those from ethnic groups that have suffered discrimination in the past in Myanmar.
Malaysia does not accept asylum seekers or refugees but has previously permitted immigrants for humanitarian reasons.
New Sin Yew, lawyer for both Amnesty International Malaysia and Asylum Access Malaysia, said the Malaysian High Court had extended the order to suspend the deportations until March 9 pending the outcome of the lawsuit.
“Meanwhile, the extension of the interim stay granted yesterday is allowed for the remainder from the 1,200 who have not been deported till March 9,” he said.
African News Agency (ANA)