Two human rights groups have filed a judicial review with the Kuala Lumpur High Court in a bid to stop the deportation of 1,200 people back to Myanmar.
The suit was jointly filed by Amnesty International Malaysia and Asylum Access Malaysia today, ahead of the deportation scheduled for tomorrow.
In a joint press release, the groups said the suit includes details of three asylum seekers who have been registered with the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and 17 minors who have at least one parent still in Malaysia.
This refutes the Immigration Department’s reassurance that no refugees are among the 1,200 Myanmar nationals being sent back.
“We believe the three UNHCR document holders have a legitimate expectation that they would not be sent to Myanmar, and deporting them would be in violation of their rights and in clear breach of the non-refoulement principle that the Malaysian Government is bound by.
“Separating children from their parents would be in violation of Malaysia’s commitments under the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC), which clearly forbids the practice under Article 9. Malaysia’s own Child Act 2001 also clearly states the Government’s responsibility to protect children,” said Asylum Access Malaysia executive director Tham Hui Ying.
Amnesty International Malaysia executive director Jorene Maliamauv added that the effort to halt the deportations is based on information from refugee groups that asylum seekers and refugees are among the people being deported to Myanmar.
The lawsuit named the Immigration Department director-general, the home minister, and the Government of Malaysia as respondents.
The two NGOs are represented by Ambiga Sreenevasan, Lim Wei Jiet and Gokul Radhakrishnan of Sreenevasan Advocates & Solicitors, and New Sin Yew of AmerBon.
Separately, the Malaysian Bar also voiced concerns over the planned deportation and urged for it to be stopped.
Its president, Salim Bashir said it is concerned about reports that the UNHCR had attempted to visit immigration centres to verify the status of Myanmar nationals held there, but had been denied access since August 2019.
“We call on the government to uphold the rules and customs of international law as well as provisions of Malaysian law.
“These detainees form a vulnerable and defenceless part of our community, and as a modern and civilised country that abides by the rule of law, we must do our part to ensure that refugees and asylum seekers are shielded from harm,” he said.
Three Myanmar navy vessels were to be sent to pick up the deportees and depart Malaysia tomorrow.
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.
Malaysia had previously expressed “serious concern” over the coup in Myanmar.