KUALA LUMPUR: Malaysia’s immigration authorities said Tuesday they have deported 1,086 Myanmar migrants, breaking a court order to halt their repatriation following an appeal by two human rights groups.
Just hours earlier, a high court granted a one-day stay order for the deportation of 1,200 Myanmar migrants to hear an appeal by Amnesty International Malaysia and Asylum Access Malaysia, which said refugees, asylum-seekers and minors were among those being sent back.
Immigration chief Khairul Dzaimee Daud said in a statement that the 1,086 had agreed to return home voluntarily on three Myanmar naval ships. He stressed that they were all Myanmar nationals and didn’t include any Muslim Rohingya refugees or asylum-seekers.
The statement did not mention the court order or explain why only 1,086 were deported instead of 1,200.
“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,” Amnesty International Malaysia’s director, Katrina Jorene Maliamauv earlier said.
“It’s 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 facing life-threatening risks.”
Amnesty urged the government to give the UN High Commissioner for Refugees access to the 1,200 migrants and all immigration detention centers in general, which Malaysia’s government has denied since August 2019.
Malaysian immigration officials couldn’t be immediately reached for comment.
The department earlier said there were no UNHCR cardholders or ethnic Muslim Rohingya refugees in the group, who were held for offenses including not having valid travel documents, overstaying their visas and violating social visit passes.
But the two rights groups in their legal filing named three people registered with the UNHCR and 17 minors who have at least one parent still in Malaysia. The UNHCR has separately said there were at least six people registered with it among the group due to be deported.
Amnesty and Asylum Access have said the repatriation is tantamount to legitimizing ongoing human rights violations by Myanmar’s military and would put the migrants at risk of further persecution, violence and even death.
A group of 27 Malaysian lawmakers and senators also sent a letter to Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin on Sunday urging him to halt the deportation. There was no response from the premier’s office.
Malaysia doesn’t recognize asylum seekers or refugees, but has allowed a large population to stay on humanitarian grounds. It is home to some 180,000 UN refugees and asylum seekers — including more than 100,000 Rohingya and other Myanmar ethnic groups.
More than 700,000 Rohingya have fled from Myanmar since August 2017, when the military cracked down in response to attacks by a rebel group. The security forces have been accused of mass rapes, killings and the burning of thousands of homes.