KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia (AP) — Despite a military coup in their home country, the Malaysian government will repatriate 1,200 Myanmar migrants next week but has ensured that they will not include minority Muslim Rohingya refugees or those registered with the U.N. Agency for refugees.
But with the U.N. On Tuesday, the High Commissioner for Refugees expressed concern that vulnerable women and children may be among the community. Myanmar’s leader, Aung San Suu Kyi, was arrested on Feb. 1, triggering demonstrations in the country as the military seized power.
5 more days until the govt deports 1,200 Myanmar nationals — which may include refugees & migrants whose lives are threatened upon return, esp amidst a military coup and crackdown.— Amnesty International Malaysia (@AmnestyMy) February 18, 2021
We might still have time to intervene.✊
Find out how this Friday 8:30PMhttps://t.co/x1UZhrXobw pic.twitter.com/SDOHcuLTU1
In a statement late Monday, Malaysia’s immigration chief, Khairul Dzaimee Daud, said that the detainees would be deported on Myanmar navy ships on Feb. 23.
He said the 1,200 were held for crimes like not having proper travel papers, overstaying their social visit passes, and breaching them.
“There are no UNHCR cardholders or ethnic Rohingya involved in the repatriation. It is just part of a usual program to deport immigrants in our detention depots,” Khairul Dzaimee said.
Last year, Malaysia repatriated 37,038 refugees, including 3,322 from Myanmar, the department said. This was down from 59,114 in 2019, it said, as many countries closed their borders because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Since August 2019, the UNHCR said it has been blocked from accessing the immigration detention centers of Malaysia and was unable to verify who needs security.
“We are concerned that there remains in detention in Malaysia a number of people, including vulnerable women and children, who may be in need of international protection but whose claims have not been verified and thus do not have the requisite UNHCR documentation,” the UNHCR said.
“If found to be in need of international protection, these individuals should not be deported to a situation where their lives or freedoms may be at risk,” it said.
Malaysia is home to around 180,000 United Nations operatives. Asylum seekers and refugees, including more than 100,000 Rohingya and other ethnic groups from Myanmar.
Since August 2017, when the military launched a clearance operation 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.