Despite court order, Malaysia deports over one thousand Myanmar nationals
Malaysia has deported 1,086 Myanmar nationals, despite a court order temporarily halting the repatriation amid concerns that the group could be at risk if they are returned to military-ruled Myanmar.
Kairul Dzaimee Daud, director-general of Malaysia’s immigration department, said on Tuesday that the group had agreed to return voluntarily and were sent back on three ships belonging to Myanmar’s navy.
The move came hours after the Kuala Lumpur High Court granted an interim stay barring the removal of some 1,200 people until 10am (02:00 GMT) on Wednesday.
The order was issued in response to a request for a judicial review from Amnesty International and Asylum Access, who said the lives of the people in the group would be at risk and that more than a dozen of the detainees were children with at least one parent in Malaysia.
Daud said those sent back were all Myanmar nationals who were detained last year and did not include asylum-seekers or any refugees from the persecuted Rohingya minority.
The statement did not mention the court order or explain why only 1,086 were deported instead of 1,200.
Amnesty International Malaysia’s Executive Director, Katrina Jorene Maliamauv, said earlier that the court would hear its appeal on Wednesday and urged Malaysia to grant the UNHCR access to the group to verify any asylum claims.
Tham Hui Ying, executive director of Asylum Access, said returning the children would breach Malaysia’s commitments under the Convention on the Rights of the Child, and its own Child Act that “clearly states the government’s responsibility to protect children”.
Myanmar has been rocked by mass protests calling for the restoration of democracy since the military seized control of the country and detained elected leaders including State Counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi and President Win Myint.
Malaysia was among a handful of countries in the region to express concern about the military’s move.
“As the world condemns the political violence in Myanmar, we are appalled to note that the Malaysian government has instead chosen to send 1,200 individuals to a rapidly deteriorating situation,” Amnesty and Asylum Access said.
Amnesty International also sent a letter of appeal to Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin on Tuesday, stressing the scale of “public opposition” to the planned deportation. It said it had received more than 1,000 letters calling on Malaysia to stop the removal.
Malaysia is home to millions of migrants from around the region and there are also nearly 180,000 refugees and asylum-seekers, according to the UNHCR, the United Nations’ refugee agency.
The vast majority are from Myanmar, including 102,250 Rohingya, as well as tens of thousands from other ethnic minority groups who have fled conflict in their homeland.