Compelling news from the refugee and migrant sector
Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Rights groups slam Malaysia over deportations

1 March 20210 comments

A group of refugee and human rights groups have issued a statement condemning the Malaysian Government for deporting of refugees and asylum seekers back to Myanmar following the military coup these on February 1.

The groups – the Asia Pacific Refugee Rights Network (APRRN), Asian Forum for Human Rights and Development (FORUM-ASIA), ASEAN Parliamentarians for Human Rights (APHR) and the International Detention Coalition (IDC) have urged Malaysia to grant UNHCR immediate and unfettered access to immigration detention facilities.

“We further urge the government to investigate the deportation on 23 February 2021 of 1,086 individuals to Myanmar, in defiance of the Kuala Lumpur High Court’s interim stay order granted earlier that day,” the statement says.  

Amnesty International Malaysia and Asylum Access Malaysia jointly filed an action in the Kuala Lumpur High Court on February 22 to prevent the deportation of 1,200 persons to Myanmar.

Just hours after the interim halt to deportation order was granted, the Malaysian government handed over more than 1,000 individuals to Myanmar naval ships for deportation.

The next day, Malaysia’s High Court issued an extended stay order against the deportation of the remaining 114 individuals. 

“The Malaysian government has yet to provide information on the 114 persons or their whereabouts. Immigration officials asserted that the 1,086 deported did not include Rohingya refugees or asylum seekers. However, there is a substantial risk that the group includes refugees and asylum seekers, including unaccompanied children,” the statement says.

“According to Asylum Access and Amnesty International Malaysia, there were at least three UNHCR card holders and 17 children among those scheduled for deportation. APRRN also received troubling confirmation that at least two of those children was separated from their family and deported back to Myanmar alone,” it says. 

“The risk is also particularly acute given that UNHCR has been denied access to verify and assess individuals fleeing persecution since August 2019. Malaysia also lacks a domestic policy and legal framework for the identification and recognition of refugees in the country,” the statement says.

“Returning individuals in need of international protection to Myanmar, especially children rendered  unaccompanied through forcible separation from their parents or guardians, would amount to  serious violation of Malaysia’s Child Act and Malaysia’s international obligations, notably the  Convention on the Rights of the Child and the principle of non-refoulement.” 

Since the military coup on 1 February 2021, Myanmar has seen large scale protests and calls the restoration of democracy.

“Grave human rights abuses and tensions have risen steadily with hundreds of arbitrary arrests and detentions, deliberate internet disruption and disconnection from the outside world,” the statement said.

“With the escalating concerns over the rapid deterioration amidst a health crisis, ‘the use of deadly violence’ by the  military on innocent civilians, including the recent killing of a 14-year old was heavily condemned by the United Nations Secretary General in the 46th UN Human Rights Council session,” the statement said.

”Ethnic minorities, many exiled in Malaysia, including amongst the 1,086 deported, have suffered atrocities for decades under the rule of the military. There is great fear that life for these ethnic minorities deported back to a military regime will likely worsen,” it said.

The statement calls on the Malaysian government to: “urgently grant UNHCR immediate and unrestricted access to the 114 individuals and all immigration detention facilities to verify the status of all detainees; release individuals in need of international protection as identified by UNHCR who are still in detention, especially amongst the 114 who remained; comply with the extended stay order issued by the Kuala Lumpur High Court on 24  February against the deportation of the remaining 114 who were part of the original 1,200  to be deported; and, open an independent and thorough investigation into the breach by the immigration department of the court order on 23 February, ensuring that those acting in violation of the court order are held fully accountable”.