Human rights groups try to stop deportation to Malaysia

Groups are taking legal action and sending letters of appeal to prevent Malaysia from returning 1,200 people to Myanmar.

Human rights groups have stepped up efforts to prevent Malaysia from returning 1,200 Burmese nationals to military-run Myanmar, sending a letter to the prime minister and filing a lawsuit on Tuesday.

The group, which includes at least six people whom the UN refugee agency has determined are in need of its protection, are expected to be brought back to Myanmar by the country’s navy, which has three ships waiting at Lumut, a base naval shipyard on the west coast of Malaysia.

Amnesty International said on Twitter that it had sent a letter of appeal to Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin highlighting “public opposition” to the plan. He said he had received more than 1,000 letters calling on Malaysia to end the deportation.

Amnesty and Asylum Access previously filed for judicial review, claiming the group’s lives are in danger and some of the detainees were children of at least one parent in Malaysia. The hearing was scheduled to begin at 12 noon (0400 GMT) in Malaysia.

“Sending them to Myanmar as the country faces escalating human rights violations and violence in coup that left at least two dead over the weekend , is a cruel act that violates the international principle of non-refoulement. Amnesty and Asylum Access said in a joint statement Monday evening.

Tham Hui Ying, executive director of Asylum Access, said returning the children would violate Malaysia’s commitments under the Convention on the Rights of the Child and its own children’s law which “clearly sets out the government’s responsibility to protect children ”.

The Burmese army seized power in a coup on February 1, detaining the country’s elected leaders, including State Councilor Aung San Suu Kyi and President Win Myint. Malaysia was one of a handful of countries in the region to condemn the military’s decision.

“As the world condemns the political violence in Myanmar, we are dismayed that the Malaysian government has instead chosen to send 1,200 people into a rapidly deteriorating situation,” the joint statement said.

Malaysia is home to millions of migrants from across the region – with and without papers – who often work in the kinds of low-paying jobs Malaysians don’t want to do.

Myanmar Navy sent three ships to pick up 1,200 people Malaysia wanted to deport [Lim Huey Teng/Reuters]

There are also nearly 180,000 refugees and asylum seekers, according to the UNHCR, the UN refugee agency.

The vast majority are from Myanmar, including 102,250 Rohingya, along with tens of thousands of other ethnic minority groups who have fled conflict in their homelands.

They also risk being detained as “undocumented” migrants because Malaysia is not a signatory to the United Nations Refugee Convention. The UN refugee agency has not been able to visit migrant detention centers in the country since August 2019.

“Now is the time to extend protection to people fleeing Myanmar and grant access to the UN, not hand them over to a military junta with a long history of serious rights violations humans, ”said Amy Smith, executive director of Fortify Rights in a statement calling on Malaysia to stop the deportation. “This plan puts lives in danger and gives unworthy legitimacy to the abusive military coup in Myanmar.”

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