Despite a court order temporarily stopping repatriation in the face of fears that the group may be at risk if they are returned to military-ruled Myanmar, Malaysia has deported 1,086 Myanmar citizens.
Kairul Dzaimee Daud, Director-General of the Immigration Department of Malaysia, said the party had decided to a voluntary return on Tuesday and had been sent back on three ships belonging to the Myanmar Navy.
The move came hours after a temporary stay was issued by the Kuala Lumpur High Court barring the deportation of some 1,200 individuals until 10am (02:00 GMT) on Wednesday.
The order was given in response to a request by Amnesty International and Asylum Access for judicial review, which claimed that the lives of the people in the group would be at risk and that more than a dozen of the detainees were children in Malaysia with at least one parent.
Daud said all Myanmar nationals detained last year were those sent back and did not include asylum seekers or any refugees from the oppressed Rohingya minority.
“All of those who have been deported agreed to return of their own free will, without being forced,” the immigration chief said in his statement.
The statement did not mention the court order or explain why, instead of 1,200, only 1,086 were deported.
Katrina Jorene Maliamauv, Executive Director of Amnesty International Malaysia, said earlier that the court would hear its appeal on Wednesday and urged Malaysia to allow the community access to the UNHCR to check any asylum claims.
“The government must respect the court order and ensure not one of the 1,200 individuals is deported today,” she said in a statement following the court ruling.
The two organizations said earlier that it was “a cruel act that violates the international principle of non-refoulement” to send the group to Myanmar, where the military seized power on February 1.
Asylum Access Executive Director Tham Hui Ying said returning the children will violate Malaysia’s obligations under the Convention on the Rights of the Child and its own Child Act, which “clearly states the responsibility of the government to protect children.”
Since the military seized control of the country and imprisoned elected officials, including State Counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi and President Win Myint, Myanmar has been rocked by mass demonstrations calling for the restoration of democracy. To express concern about the military’s advance, Malaysia was among a handful of countries in the region.
“As the world condemns the political violence in Myanmar, we are appalled to note that the Malaysian government has instead chosen to send 1,200 individuals to a rapidly deteriorating situation,” Amnesty and Asylum Access said.