The High Court of Kuala Lumpur has issued an order to stay the deportation of 114 Myanmar migrants, the only ones left of a group of 1,200 people the Malaysian government sent back to Myanmar in defiance of an earlier ruling.
The court’s decision on Wednesday was welcomed by the rights groups Amnesty International and Asylum Access Malaysia, which condemned the move by the government of Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin as a violation of the principle of international human rights.
“We believe the government owes an explanation to the people of Malaysia as to why they chose to defy the court order, and on the identity and status of all 1200 people,” said Katrina Jorene Maliamauv, executive director of Amnesty International Malaysia.
“These dangerous deportations have not been properly scrutinised and put individuals at grave risk.”
On Tuesday, Malaysia deported 1,086 Myanmar nationals despite a court order temporarily halting the repatriation amid concerns 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 the group agreed to return “voluntarily” and were sent back on three ships belonging to Myanmar’s navy.
Daud said those sent back were all Myanmar nationals detained last year and did not include asylum-seekers or any refugees from the persecuted Rohingya minority. He did not explain why the 114 other Myanmar migrants were left behind.
‘Endangering lives of migrants’
The move came just hours after the Kuala Lumpur High Court granted an interim stay barring the removal of the 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 their lives would be at risk and that more than a dozen of the detainees were children with at least one parent in Malaysia.
Despite the court order, the deportations went ahead as scheduled, prompting the court to issue the second stay order on Wednesday.
Maliamauv of Amnesty said the government’s decision may also be in contravention of the country’s obligations under the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) and the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women.
“Authorities must halt them before they endanger more lives. They must stop trying to railroad these deportations without accountability,” said Maliamauv.
The group Doctors Without Borders (MSF) also said the move sets a “dangerous precedent” that endangers the lives of asylum seekers.
Myanmar’s military seized power nearly three weeks ago, claiming there had been electoral fraud during parliamentary elections last November.
It has detained the country’s de facto leader, Aung San Suu Kyi, and other politicians and activists, sparking nationwide protests.
THREAD: Deportation of 1,086 Myanmar Nationals from Malaysia | https://t.co/6QSAhBREK5
MSF says the decision by the Malaysian Government to deport 1,086 Myanmar nationals from Malaysia, despite a court order to temporarily halting the deportation, sets a dangerous precedent. pic.twitter.com/1ZFtrZzwCM
— MSF in Southeast Asia (@MSF_seAsia) February 24, 2021
Rights groups said the situation in Myanmar puts the deported migrants at risk.
In a joint statement, four opposition lawmakers in Malaysia also condemned the “inhumane” deportation and suggested government officials could be held in contempt for ignoring the legal ruling.
“This act … is a clear display that the Malaysian government does not respect the ongoing court process and has put Malaysia in a bad light on the human rights front,” it said.
Malaysia is home to millions of migrants from the region – documented and undocumented – who often work in the kind of poorly paid jobs Malaysians do not want to do.
There are also nearly 180,000 refugees and asylum-seekers, according to 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.
They are also at risk of being detained as “undocumented migrants” because Malaysia is not a signatory to the UN Convention on Refugees. The UN refugee agency has not been able to visit immigration detention centres in the country since August 2019.