KUALA LUMPUR – Malaysia deported 1,086 Myanmar nationals on Tuesday despite a court order to temporarily stop the repatriation in response to an appeal by Amnesty International and Asylum Access.
Khairul Dzaimee Daud, the immigration department head, insisted that the “illegal immigrants” voluntarily agreed to return to Myanmar.
Daud said in a statement that they were sent back in three Myanmar naval ships that departed from the Lumut naval base, about 150 kilometers north of Kuala Lumpur.
The official stressed that the deportees did not include any refugees from the Rohingya ethnic group, discriminated against in Myanmar, or any asylum seeker.
The director of immigration did not clarify if any immigrants, held in detention since 2020, were still in Malaysia.
Initially, the authorities said that there were around 1,200 Myanmar nationals, but finally, 1,086 were sent back to their home country.
Amnesty had said in its appeal that the immigrants were being sent to a country where human rights violations were committed by the army that carried out a coup and detained the government of Aung San Suu Kyi.
The deportation came hours after the Kuala Lumpur High Court ordered an interim stay barring the repatriation of the immigrants until Wednesday morning.
Lim Wei Jiet, the lawyer representing the human rights organizations, confirmed on Twitter earlier that the court had temporarily stopped the deportation.
The court “has granted an interim stay against the Malaysian government from deporting the 1,200 Myanmar nationals until tomorrow 10am,” the lawyer said.
Amnesty 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,” she added.
The Malaysian government had accepted an offer from Myanmar to bring back 1,200 of its immigrants aboard naval ships on Feb. 23.
Malaysia is committed to accept the refugee status of those recognized as such by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees.
However, the country has not allowed the UN body to enter immigration detention centers since August 2019, effectively preventing them from identifying asylum seekers.