KUALA LUMPUR, Feb 23 — The Immigration Department of Malaysia has announced that it has deported 1,086 Myanmar citizens, whom it described as illegal immigrants today, with the announcement made just hours after a High Court’s order to temporarily suspend any efforts to deport 1,200 individuals to Myanmar for one day.
In a statement this evening, Immigration Department of Malaysia’s (JIM) director-general Datuk Khairul Dzaimee Daud said the department had along with the cooperation of the Malaysian Armed Forces — particularly the Royal Malaysian Navy, the National Task Force (NTF) and the Myanmar Embassy — successfully carried out the programme today to repatriate the 1,086 individuals.
The statement did not say what time the repatriation exercise for the 1,086 persons was carried out or completed today.
He said that all these 1,086 Myanmar citizens have been detained in immigration detention centres nationwide since 2020, and that they were sent back to Myanmar via three Myanmar navy ships through the Malaysian navy’s base in Lumut, Perak.
“JIM wishes to stress that all detainees that were repatriated are Myanmar citizens who are illegal immigrants and do not involve the Rohingya ethnicity or asylum seekers. All of them who were repatriated had agreed to return voluntarily without force from any quarters,” he said in the statement posted on the department’s Facebook page.
Khairul Dzaimee said the repatriation exercise is part of the Immigration Department’s continuing process to deport detainees held at Malaysia’s immigration detention centres, adding that such deportation efforts had slowed in 2020 as many countries had closed their borders.
He went on to say that the Immigration Department will continue efforts through the Home Ministry and Wisma Putra or the Foreign Ministry to obtain the agreement of related countries such as Vietnam, Indonesia, and Bangladesh to repatriate their citizens who were currently detained in Malaysia’s immigration detention centres in large numbers.
His statement did not touch on the High Court’s order, or the ongoing lawsuit filed by two human rights groups who were seeking to stop the Malaysian government’s deportation of 1,200 individuals to Myanmar.
About the High Court order and the lawsuit
Just hours before the Immigration Department released the statement on Facebook, the High Court in Kuala Lumpur had today granted a temporary stay order to suspend the government’s plans to deport the 1,200 Myanmar citizens, as the court would hear the lawsuit tomorrow morning in Kuala Lumpur.
Yesterday, Amnesty International Malaysia and Asylum Access Malaysia had jointly filed for judicial review, following the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees’s (UNHCR) confirmation that at least six persons registered with the UN agency were among those scheduled to be deported this afternoon.
Based on court documents sighted by Malay Mail, Asylum Access Malaysia and Amnesty International Malaysia had as Asylum Access Berhad and Aimal Sdn Bhd filed for judicial review against three respondents, namely the immigration director-general, the home minister and the government of Malaysia.
The judicial review bid by Amnesty International Malaysia and Asylum Access Malaysia includes the names and details of three UNHCR document holders and 17 minors who had at least one parent still in Malaysia.
In the court documents, the court orders sought by the two groups are for a quashing of the respondents’ decision to deport the three UNHCR document holders which had been recognised as refugees by the UNHCR, and a quashing of the respondents’ decision to deport the 17 children, and a quashing of the respondents’ decision to deport the 1,200 Myanmar nationals who were detained in immigration detention centres to Myanmar, as well as three separate prohibition orders against the respondents to disallow the deporting of the three UNHCR-recognised refugees, the 17 children and the 1,200 persons.
According to an online listing of the case, Amnesty International Malaysia and Asylum Access Malaysia’s joint application for leave for judicial review is set to be heard through video-conferencing tomorrow by High Court judge Datuk Seri Mariana Yahya.
Earlier today in a joint statement by Amnesty International Malaysia and Asylum Access Malaysia, Amnesty International Malaysia’s executive director Katrina Jorene Maliamauv said that the 1,200 individuals include some holders of valid UNHCR documents, asylum seekers and children separated from their parents who are still in Malaysia.
“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.
“Instead, it must grant access to UNHCR to all 1,200 individuals and all immigration detention centres in general, which the government has denied since August 2019.
“This would enable the UN agency to verify asylum claims and identify refugees already registered,” she had said.