By Hidir Reduan Abdul Rashid | Malaysiakini

The Kuala Lumpur High Court today has extended the order against the deportation of the remaining Myanmar refugees in Malaysia.

This followed yesterday’s move by the Immigration Department to deport 1,086 Myanmar asylum seekers back to their country of origin.

Judge Mariana Yahya today allowed the extension of the order until March 9, which has been set for a decision on a related legal bid to quash the Malaysian government’s decision to deport the Myanmar nationals.

The order was issued against the home minister and two others during open court proceedings this morning. The other two respondents are the Immigration director-general and the government.

This was confirmed by lawyer New Sin Yew, who is acting for Amnesty International and Asylum Access.

Both human rights organisations are the applicants in the judicial review leave application set for a decision on March 9.

Yesterday, the Immigration Department deported the 1,086 Myanmar refugees, who are part of more than 1,200 fellow asylum seekers at the centre of the legal challenge against any such deportation. 

The 1,086 refugees were picked up by three Myanmar navy ships.

The move went against an earlier interim court order against any such deportation, pending disposal of the main judicial review application. 

The Bar Council’s M Ramachevam labelled the move by the immigration authorities as possibly amounting to contempt of court. 

The interim stay order was issued as part of the main legal challenge by Amnesty International and Asylum Access, against the authorities’ decision to deport the over 1,200 Myanmar nationals. 

Senior federal counsel Ahmad Hanir Hambaly @ Arwi, who represented the three respondents, also confirmed the extension of the order against further deportation.

“The interim stay (has been) extended for the remaining people (Myanmar refugees) who were not repatriated yesterday,” he said when contacted after proceedings.

Hanir also confirmed that the court set March 9 for a decision on whether to grant leave to Amnesty International and Asylum Access to proceed with their judicial review.

If the court grants the leave, then it would later fix a date to hear submissions from parties over the merits of the judicial review application.

The two human rights organisations will be conducting an online press conference at 2pm today in relation to what has transpired in court earlier. The media briefing would be conducted via Zoom.

It was reported that Malaysia has agreed to deport 1,200 people to Myanmar amid a military coup and deadly protests in the country.

On Saturday, Free Malaysia Today reported that three Myanmar-flagged vessels, including one described as a military operations ship, had arrived in Lumut, Perak and were anchored off the naval base there.

The UNHCR has urged Malaysia not to proceed with the deportation, while other groups warned that the deportation could legitimise the military junta now in power and expose Rohingya and other ethnic minorities to persecution.

The country had previously expressed “serious concern” over the coup in Myanmar.

Malaysia does not recognise the UN refugee status, hence, refugees are viewed under the law as undocumented migrants.

Despite the non-recognition, Malaysia is home to an estimated 154,000 refugees from Myanmar, apart from the larger number of undocumented migrant workers.

Interim order issued after Myanmar nationals deported, court heard

Meanwhile, Hanir said they informed the court today that the initial order against the deportation was issued nearly six hours after the Immigration Department handed over the 1,086 Myanmar nationals to the Myanmar navy.

He explained that the Myanmar nationals were deported around 7.30am yesterday, while the court order was issued around 1.20pm yesterday.

“After the court granted the interim stay order around 1.20pm (yesterday), the AGC (Attorney-General’s Chambers) immediately informed the Immigration Department.

“We also informed the court (today) that we received a letter this morning from the Immigration Department, informing that the (1,086) Myanmar citizens were surrendered to the Myanmar authorities at 7.30am on Feb 23, 2021 (yesterday).

“After the surrender, the Immigration (authorities of Malaysia) has no power over the Myanmar (nationals) on the foreign ship (of the Myanmar navy).

“The court also ordered for the proper explanation to be made later after the leave for judicial review is heard,” Hanir said.