Malaysia’s immigration authorities have deported 1,086 Myanmar migrants following an appeal by two human rights organizations, defying a court order to avoid their repatriation.
A single day stay order for the deportation of 1,200 Myanmar migrants was granted just hours earlier by a high court to hear an appeal by Amnesty International Malaysia and Asylum Access Malaysia.
The appeal pointed out that among those being sent back were refugees, asylum-seekers and minors.
In a statement, Immigration Chief Khairul Dzaimee Daud said that the 1,086 had gone home on three Myanmar naval vessels on their own accord.
“All of them have agreed to return voluntarily without being forced by any parties,” Mr Khairul said.
He emphasized that they were all Myanmar citizens and that no Muslim Rohingya refugees or asylum seekers were included, contradicting rights groups.
The statement did not mention the court order or explain why, instead of 1,200, only 1,086 were deported.
“In light of the court ruling, the government must respect the court order and ensure that not one of the 1,200 individuals is deported today … they are facing life-threatening risk,” Amnesty International Malaysia’s director Katrina Jorene Maliamauv had said earlier.
Amnesty said the court will hear their appeal today and urged the government to rethink its plans to return migrants to Myanmar in the aftermath of the unrest following the military coup on 1 February that deposed elected leader Aung San Suu Kyi of the country.
The department reported that the group was held for crimes involving the lack of legitimate travel papers, the overstaying of visas and the violation of social visit passes.
But in their legal documents, the two rights groups named three UNHCR registered persons and 17 minors who still have at least one parent in Malaysia.
Separately, the UNHCR said that there were at least six people registered with it as part of the party to be deported.
Amnesty and Asylum Access claim repatriation is equal to legitimizing Myanmar’s military’s continuing human rights abuses and puts migrants at risk of more persecution, abuse and even death.
A party of 27 MPs and Senators from Malaysia also sent a letter on Sunday to Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin urging him to postpone the deportation.
There was no reaction from the office of the premier.
Malaysia does not accept asylum seekers or refugees, but on humanitarian grounds, it has permitted a significant population to remain.
It is home to some 180,000 refugees and asylum seekers from the United Nations, including more than 100,000 Rohingya and other ethnic groups from Myanmar.
Since August 2017, when the military cracked down in response to attacks by a rebel group, over 700,000 Rohingya have fled from Myanmar.
Mass rapes, massacres and the burning of thousands of homes have been accused by the security forces.