Responding to news that the government deported 1,086 people to Myanmar on 23 February, Amnesty International Malaysia’s executive director, Katrina Jorene Maliamauv, said: “The Malaysian government’s decision to deport people in defiance of an order from the High Court today was inhumane and devastating.
“We believed that with a court order those due to be deported would be safe, and so we are shocked that the government went ahead with the deportation.
“It appears the authorities railroaded this shockingly cruel deportation before any proper scrutiny of the decision, and in spite of week-long calls for a proper assessment of the people on the list.
“The authorities’ earlier claims that there were no asylum seekers in the group were patently false. Now there are still huge, deeply concerning question marks over the status of those sent back today.
“It is appalling that UNHCR [the UN refugee agency] were not given the chance to access the group – much like they have been denied access to immigration detention centres since August 2019.
“Authorities insist those deported agreed to return voluntarily – but the options for people and their families were between indefinite detention or returning to an extremely volatile situation amid a coup. Using indirect means to push people back to face grave human rights violations is essentially constructive refoulement.
“This life-threatening decision has affected the lives of more than a thousand people and their families and leaves an indelible stain on Malaysia’s human rights record, already in steep decline over the past year.
“Tomorrow’s court hearing, which will still go ahead, must reveal answers about what has occurred. An event like today’s deportation – undertaken in secrecy, and without access for the UN to vulnerable people – must never be allowed to happen again. We call on Malaysian authorities to respect its obligations under international human rights law, to ensure safe and voluntary repatriation, with access to UNHCR to assess those being deported.
“Authorities must restore UN access to detention centres and allow it to carry out its life-saving work. Detention solely for immigration control should not be allowed to continue, and the government must work towards the release of those detained for this reason. Refugees and asylum seekers looking for safety must be allowed to seek protection in a country like Malaysia. We cannot continue to deny the basic humanity of those who have sought work or safety on our shores.”
On 23 February 2021, the Malaysian government deported 1,086 Myanmar nationals. Before this, Immigration Department director general Khairul Dzaimee Daud said the deportation would involve individuals who violated the Immigration Act 1959/63 and Immigration Regulations 1963, including offences such as not carrying identity documents, overstaying and misuse of visit passes.
Earlier in the day, a High Court judge granted a one-day stay of deportation in order to hear a case for a judicial review filed by Amnesty International Malaysia and Asylum Access Malaysia.
The judicial review aimed to obtain a court order to prevent the deportation and included the names and details of three UNHCR document holders and 17 minors who had at least one parent still in Malaysia. The deportation of the Myanmar nationals took place before a scheduled hearing on the judicial review was allowed to occur on 24 February 2021, potentially making the government in contempt of court.
Ahead of the deportation, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees stated that at least three people registered with it were among those due to be deported, and expressed concern that there may be others in the group in a similar situation. The UNHCR has been denied access to detention centres since August 2019. – Amnesty International Malaysia