Court grants interim stay of deportation of Myanmar nationals

Amnesty International is calling for the UN refugee agency to have full access to all those currently in detention facilities

Responding to the news that the High Court has granted a one-day stay to the government’s planned deportation of 1,200 individuals to Myanmar pending a judicial review, Katrina Jorene Maliamauv, executive director of Amnesty International Malaysia said:

“Amnesty International Malaysia and Asylum Access Malaysia welcome the decision to stay the planned deportation of 1,200 individuals to Myanmar that include valid UNHCR [UN refugee agency] document holders, asylum seekers and children separated from their parents still in Malaysia.

“In light of the court ruling, the government must respect the court order and ensure that not one of the 1,200 individuals is deported today. Instead, it must grant access to the UNHCR to all 1,200 individuals and all immigration detention centres in general, which the government has denied since August 2019. This would enable the UN agency to verify asylum claims and identify refugees already registered.

“It is important to note that the stay of execution granted by the court does not mean the 1,200 are safe from being deported. They are still facing life-threatening risks. The judicial review will proceed tomorrow, 24 February at 10am.

“We urge the government to reconsider its plans to send this group of vulnerable people back to Myanmar, where human rights violations are currently dangerously high.”

Amnesty International Malaysia and Asylum Access Malaysia yesterday jointly filed for a judicial review in the Kuala Lumpur High Court to stop the government’s planned deportation of 1,200 individuals back to Myanmar in cooperation with the Myanmar military.

The respondents are the director general of the Immigration Department of Malaysia, the  home affairs minister and the Malaysian government.

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“This effort to halt the deportation is based on information from refugee groups evidently indicating that asylum seekers and refugees are among the individuals being sent to Myanmar,” Katrina said.  

“There are also reports that those due to be deported include children in detention with at least one parent still in Malaysia. Separating children from their parents is an extremely inhuman practice that places these minors at grave risk and goes against the best interest of the child.”

The judicial review aims to obtain a court order to prevent the deportation, and includes the names and details of three UNHCR document holders and 17 minors who have at least one parent still in Malaysia.

This information dispels the assurance given by immigration authorities on 15 February that no refugees are among the 1,200 being sent back. Sending them to Myanmar, at a time when the country is facing increasing human rights violations and violence committed in the course of a coup that led to at least two deaths over the weekend, is a cruel act that violates the international principle of non-refoulement.

“We believe the three UNHCR document holders have a legitimate expectation that they would not be sent to Myanmar, and deporting them would be in violation of their rights and in clear breach of the non-refoulement principle that the Malaysian government is bound by,” said Tham Hui Ying, executive director of Asylum Access Malaysia.

“Separating children from their parents would be in violation of Malaysia’s commitments under the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC), which clearly forbids the practice under Article 9. Malaysia’s own Child Act 2001 also clearly states the government’s responsibility to protect children.”

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Despite Malaysia’s initial critical remarks on the February military coup in Myanmar, working with the country’s military to send detained migrants to a precarious, possibly life-threatening fate is tantamount to legitimising ongoing human rights violations by the government.

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.

“The Myanmar military’s human rights violations against protesters and dissidents has been widely documented. If Malaysia insists on sending back the 1,200 individuals, it would be responsible for putting them at risk of further persecution, violence and even death,” said Katrina.

“We hope the court will take the necessary step to halt this deportation and protect their lives. We call on the government to immediately grant UNHCR full access to the 1,200 people, as a first step towards addressing the dire situation of thousands of people in immigration detention.”

The Malaysian government plans to deport 1,200 people of Myanmarese origin on navy ships provided by the country’s military on 23 February.

Amnesty International, Asylum Access and other civil society organisations and MPs have protested against the move. Beyond granting UNHCR access to those due to be deported, Amnesty International is calling for UNHCR to have full access to all those currently in detention facilities, which has been denied since August 2019. 

The detention of people solely for immigration control is unjustifiable. The organisation calls for the immediate release of refugees, asylum seekers and migrants detained for this reason. Refugees and asylum seekers must be afforded additional protections, including full recognition of their right to seek international protection. – Amnesty International Malaysia, 22-23 February 2021

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