KL high court postpones deportation of 1,200 Myanmar nationals

KUALA LUMPUR, 23 Feb 2021:

The high court here today decided to postpone the deportation of 1,200 Myanmar nationals, in response to an appeal filed by non-profits Amnesty International and Asylum Access.

Lim Wei Jiet, the lawyer representing the human rights organisations, confirmed on Twitter the court has temporarily stopped the deportation – initially scheduled for today – and has decided to continue further hearings on the matter tomorrow.

The court “has granted an interim stay against the Malaysian government from deporting the 1,200 Myanmar nationals until tomorrow 10am. They were scheduled to be deported by the Myanmar navy today at Lumut naval base,” tweeted the lawyer.

Meanwhile, navy ships from Myanmar remain docked at Lumut naval base, about 150km north of Kuala Lumpur – prepared to proceed with the transfer of their immigrants held in detention centres in Malaysia.

The immigrants face a return to their country, which going through a turbulent period – especially since the recent coup by the army.

Amnesty International denounced the Malaysian government’s deportation plan and recalled that it was being carried out without transparency, against the country’s obligations to respect the rights of migrants and refugees, and was putting their lives at risk.

“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,” said Katrina Jorene Maliamauv, executive director of Amnesty International Malaysia.

“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 Malaysian government had accepted an offer from Myanmar to bring back 1,200 of its immigrants aboard naval ships on Feb 23.

Although Malaysia is committed to accept the refugee status of those recognised as such by the UN High Commissioner for Refugees.

However, Malaysia has not allowed the UN body to enter immigration detention centres since August 2019, effectively preventing them from identifying asylum seekers.

Meanwhile, Immigration Department director-general Datuk Khairul Dzaimee Daud said  a total of 1,086 illegal immigrants from Myanmar – who were detained in Immigration Department depots throughout the country since last year – have been repatriated from the Lumut Royal Malaysian Navy base today.

He said the repatriation programme was implemented by his department with the assistance of the Malaysian Armed Forces – including the navy, the National Task Force (NTF) and the Myanmar embassy.

“All detainees sent back are Myanmar illegal immigrants and do not involve Rohingya or asylum seekers. All those onboard the Myanmar naval vessels have agreed to return home voluntarily without coercion by any party,” he said in a statement.

He said the repatriation programme is part of an ongoing deportation process by the Immigration Department for detainees housed in Immigration Department depots.

He said the deportation process last year proceeded slowly as many countries closed their borders.

“The department, through the Home Ministry and Wisma Putra will continue to secure the agreement of countries involved such as Vietnam, Indonesia and Bangladesh to repatriate their citizens currently held in Immigration depots in large numbers.

“The Immigration Department would like to thank all parties for their assistance, especially the navy and the NTF in making this repatriation programme a success.”

– EFE, Bernama