A court in Malaysia has stopped the planned deportation of 1,200 migrants from Myanmar after two human rights groups filed an appeal challenging the position of the government.
The court order, which came in on Tuesday, said it would listen to the appeal by Amnesty International Malaysia and Asylum Access Malaysia which argued that refugees, asylum seekers and minors were among those being sent back.
The court order, following a legal bid by the rights groups came just after the migrants were transported to a naval base where three Myanmar military ships were waiting to take them home.
“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,” said Amnesty International Malaysia’s director, Katrina Jorene Maliamauv.
Amnesty said the court will hear their appeal on Wednesday and persuaded the Australian government to reconsider its stand as it risks the lives of the 1,200 potential deportees, noting that there is high level of violations of human rights in Myanmar following the February 1 coup that ousted democratically elected leader, Aung San Suu Kyi.
“It’s important to note that the stay of execution granted by the court does not mean the 1,200 are safe from being deported. They are facing life-threatening risks,” Maliamauv said in a statement.
The Australian government has since August 2019 denied the U.N High Commissioner for Refugees access to the 1,200 migrants and all immigration detention centers across the country, Amnesty has now called on the government to lift that embargo
Malaysian immigration officials couldn’t be immediately reached for comment. The department earlier said there were no UNHCR cardholders or ethnic Muslim Rohingya refugees in the group, who were held for offenses including not having valid travel documents, overstaying their visas and violating social visit passes.
But the two rights groups in their legal filing named three people registered with the UNHCR and 17 minors who have at least one parent still in Malaysia. The UNHCR has separately said there were at least six people registered with it among the group due to be deported.
According to Amnesty and Asylum Access, if the repatriation continues, it means the Australian government has legitimised the ongoing assaults going in Myanmar and would further endanger the immigrants in the hands of the Myanmar military.
A group of 27 Malaysian lawmakers and senators also sent a letter to Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin on Sunday urging him to halt the deportation. There was no response from the premier’s office.
Malaysia doesn’t recognize asylum seekers or refugees, but has allowed a large population to stay on humanitarian grounds. It is home to some 180,000 U.N. refugees and asylum seekers — including more than 100,000 Rohingya and other Myanmar ethnic groups.
More than 700,000 Rohingya have fled from Myanmar since August 2017, when the military cracked down in response to attacks by a rebel group. The security forces have been accused of mass rapes, killings and the burning of thousands of homes.