URGENT STATEMENT: Malaysia Must Stop the Planned Deportation of Detained Myanmar Nationals and Allow Detainees Immediate Access to UNHCR
4 September 2022
4 September 2022
The Asia Pacific Refugee Rights Network (APRRN) strongly urge the Government of Malaysia to immediately halt any involuntary repatriation of Myanmar detainees and allow UNHCR access to screen all the detainees scheduled for deportation. We appeal to place the safety and security of vulnerable populations as a paramount consideration.
As indicated in a letter from 2nd of September 2022 published on the Facebook Page of the Myanmar Embassy in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia the embassy was invited by senior Malaysian Immigration officials, including one deputy director of immigration Malaysia1, on the 2nd of September 2022 to discuss the deportation of 135 detained Myanmar nationals.
The individuals suggested for deportation by Malaysian immigration officials to representatives of the Myanmar Junta are from the group of 1,200 Myanmar men, women and children, of whom the Malaysian government handed over 1,086 individuals to the Myanmar military in violation of the order by the High Court of Malaysia on 23rd February 2021. At the time the High Court of Malaysia granted an extended stay order against the deportation for 114 individuals.
Given the situation on the ground in Myanmar, and Malaysia’s public condemnation of the violence targeting ordinary citizens and activists, this planned deportation should be halted in light of the recent developments in the region. Malaysia’s leadership in the region on Myanmar is critical at this juncture and should not be undermined by short-sighted engagement by departments or elements of the administration. Deportation of vulnerable refugees and asylum seekers will put their lives at risk - contradicting policy coherence and undermining the country’s credibility to lead regional engagement with Myanmar.
This decision of immigration officials on behalf of the Malaysian Government will potentially violate international human rights standards and international customary laws, a number of which the country has ratified and is mandated to comply with, including those protecting the rights of women, children, people with disability, and against torture. Please reconsider. There are individuals from persecuted minority groups who fled armed conflict and experienced systematic discrimination in Myanmar and have not been permitted access to UNHCR for a legitimate assessment and proper verification of their asylum claims.
The principle of non-refoulement, is customary international law. It forbids the forced return of persons at the risk of facing persecution or any serious harm - a principle that Malaysia is bound by. The repatriation of any individual to their country of origin must be voluntary, safe, and dignified. Thus, involuntary returns without proper status determination prior to the deportation could amount to a serious violation, especially given the precarious ongoing violence in Myanmar, which may pose serious risks, endangering lives and security of those desperately in need of protection.
The ongoing and escalating concerns made by the international community, including the UN Human Rights Council, the International Criminal Court, and several members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations on the de-democratisation need to be considered: increasing levels of violence and serious human rights abuses against pro-democracy activists, former parliamentarians, human rights campaigners, protesters, and vulnerable groups perpetrated at the hands of the military junta in Myanmar. Sending detained men, women and children in need of protection back to a country ruled by the perpetrators responsible for one of the world’s worst humanitarian and human rights crises will greatly compromise their safety and security and make Malaysia complicit.
We call on the Malaysian Government to prioritise the safety and security of the men, women and children of Myanmar under your care, specifically those who did not have their international protection needs assessed, by immediately halting the repatriation plan.
An important step towards certainty is to grant immediate and unhindered access to UNHCR into the immigration detention centres to verify the status of all detainees, ensuring that return of any individual is voluntary through informed consent, and that no one is a person of concern to UNHCR or an asylum seeker in need of protection.
The Asia Pacific Refugee Rights Network (APRRN) is a network of over 200 active civil society organisations and individuals from 29 countries committed to advancing the rights of refugees in the Asia Pacific region. APRRN aims to advance the rights of refugees and other people in need of protection through joint advocacy, capacity strengthening, resource sharing and outreach. While APRRN statements are prepared in consultation with members, they do not necessarily reflect the views of all APRRN members. www.aprrn.org
Asia Pacific Refugee Right Network
Hafsar Tameesuddin, Chair, APRRN, Email: email@example.com
Lilianne Fan, Chair, Rohingya Working Group, APRRN, Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
The Asia Pacific Refugee Rights Network (APRRN) joins the Malaysian Advisory Group on Myanmar, UNHCR, and others, raising the alarm about the recent deportations of hundreds of Myanmar nationals from Malaysia to Myanmar. APRRN strongly urges the Government of Malaysia to immediately halt any deportation to Myanmar for those who may be at risk of harm and facilitate UNHCR access to all detainees scheduled for deportation to allow a proper assessment of risk on return on Myanmar. Hafsar Tameesuddin, Chair of APRRN, and a former Rohingya refugee previously resident in Malaysia, stated: “It is utterly disappointing to see that the Malaysian government has failed again to uphold the human rights of asylum seekers and refugees from Myanmar; forcing them to return to a country they had escaped with the fear of persecution is unacceptable and unjust. We urge the Government of Malaysia to uphold the human rights of all asylum seekers and refugees.”
The Asia Pacific Refugee Rights Network (APRRN) is gravely concerned over reports that Malaysian maritime authorities pushed back Rohingya refugees arriving by boat on 16 April. Re ports indicate Malaysian authorities refused to allow the disembarkation of a fishing trawler with approximately 200 Rohingya aboard. This action comes a day after Bangladeshi authorities rescued a boat of 396 Rohingya refugees that had failed in its attempts to reach Malaysia. According to a survivor, both Malaysian and Thai authorities prevented the boat entry to their respective territories. At least 28 individuals are reported to have died over the course of the journey
The Asia Pacific Refugee Rights Network (APRRN) further reiterates our grave concern over the impact of border-closure measures implemented by governments around the world on the right to seek asylum from persecution.