Malaysia’s move to deport over 1,000 Myanmar nationals back to their homeland on Tuesday (23 Feb) just weeks after a military coup was “inhumane and devastating”, Amnesty International Malaysia said.
Amnesty International Malaysia’s executive director Katrina Maliamauv in a statement branded the move as shocking, especially given that the court had ordered the repatriation of the Myanmar nationals to be halted.
“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,” she said.
Maliamauv said that the authorities’ earlier claims that there were no asylum seekers in the group was patently false and expressed deep concern over the questions of the status of those sent back yesterday.
“It is appalling that the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) was not given the chance to access the group -– much like they have been denied access to immigration detention centres since August 2019,” she pointed out.
Maliamauv highlighted the situation of the deported group, saying that the options given to them 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,” she said in response to authorities’ claim that those deported agreed to return voluntarily.
“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,” she stressed.
Amnesty International also called on the Malaysian authorities to restore UN access to detention centres and allow it to carry out its life-saving work, adding that detention solely for immigration control should not be allowed to continue and that 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,” said the NGO.