Challenger Malaysia, MISI: Solidariti, and Pemuda Sosialis, with support from various NGOs, stand in solidarity with the 1,086 Myanmar nationals who were deported back to Myanmar on 23 February 2021.
We unequivocally condemn the actions of the Malaysian Immigration Department for doing so. The deportation took place despite a stay of execution issued by the Kuala Lumpur High Court on the morning of 23 February. Not only that, the act itself violates the international legal principle of non-refoulement.
On 5 March 2021 at Taman Jaya Park, several representatives from the aforementioned organisations laid out 1,086 pairs of shoes to demonstrate just how many people – men, women, and even children among them, as reported by Amnesty International Malaysia – that the Malaysian government has potentially condemned, many of whom left Myanmar in search of a better life for themselves and their families.
All these lives cannot simply be reduced to a number, distant and disconnected from reality, so we must look at the space each of them would have occupied had they stood here in the flesh as living, breathing individuals.
However, even this does not do justice to capturing and representing the humanity of these individuals; these shoes cannot illustrate who they are as people – their hopes, dreams, and aspirations that all of us as individuals possess.
We also cannot forget that according to the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), there were asylum seekers in that group, who were fleeing violence and persecution from a government that seeks to ethnically cleanse Myanmar – a fact that the Immigration Department explicitly denied when they said asylum seekers were not included in the 1,086 people deported.
In spite of this, Malaysian authorities deported them anyway in what can only be described as an act of unbridled xenophobia.
In the spirit of realising human rights and dignity, we have a list of four demands:
1. No cooperation with the Tatmadaw government
Myanmar’s current Tatmadaw (military) government was installed undemocratically through the use of brute force against the wishes of the Myanmar people and maintains its power through authoritarian means that are often violent and lethal.
Malaysia should not be seen to legitimise this government – be it through bilateral agreements or cooperation in any form – due to an implication of tacit approval of their governance.
2. Unequivocal access to immigration detention centres granted to the UNHCR
The government must allow UNHCR to have access immigration detention centres to find out if those detained are vulnerable due to their status as a persecuted minority and grant them the protection that should be rightfully afforded to them under international human rights instruments.
3. Moratorium on deportations and an end to indefinite and arbitrary detention of migrants
Migrants must no longer be subject to raids, arrests and detention purely by reason of their immigration status. These practices are inhumane, greatly infringe on their rights, rob them of their dignity as individuals, and subject them to terrible living conditions and even physical and verbal abuse, which are well-documented by many human rights organisations in Malaysia.
Further to the above, we urge that the Malaysian courts initiate a judicial review against the government, Immigration director general Khairul Dzaimee Daud and the Ministry of Home Affairs for their role in the deportation in the coming hearing on 9 March 2021.
4. Full transparency from the Immigration Department
The Immigration Department must make data regarding detentions public and accessible – including but not limited to the number of detainees, disaggregated by gender, age group, and nationality; refugee status; the exact location where detainees are being held; the duration the detainees have been held; and the reasons for the extension of detention.
We also demand an explanation from the Immigration Department regarding the grounds on which the deportation was carried out on 23 February despite the court order, why the remaining 114 Myanmar nationals were not deported, as well as their current status.
To reiterate, we the co-signed strongly condemn the deportation of the Myanmar nationals and affirm that this crime against humanity – no less than that – cannot go unanswered. We may not be able to bring the 1,086 back, but we have to work to ensure that what happened never happens again.
- Challenger Malaysia
- MISI: Solidariti
- Pemuda Sosialis
- Demokrat Kebangsaan
- North South Initiative
- Parti Sosialis Malaysia
- Refuge for the Refugees
- Beyond Borders
- Al-Hasan Volunteer Network