After 1,086 Myanmar nationals repatriated, High Court extends order to suspend further deportations until March 9 decision on lawsuit

Ida Lim
·5-min read
An aerial view of the Kuala Lumpur High Court April 23, 2020. — Picture by Hari Anggara
An aerial view of the Kuala Lumpur High Court April 23, 2020. — Picture by Hari Anggara

KUALA LUMPUR, Feb 24 — The High Court here today stayed the Malaysian government’s deportation of the remainder of the original 1,200 Myanmar nationals referred to in a lawsuit until the matter was decided.

Yesterday, High Court judge Datuk Seri Mariana Yahya granted a stay order to temporarily suspend the government’s plans to deport the 1,200 Myanmar citizens, as she was to hear the lawsuit this morning at 10am.

The Malaysian government had been planning to repatriate the 1,200 Myanmar citizens on three navy ships provided by the Myanmar military yesterday afternoon.

The Immigration Department of Malaysia yesterday announced — just hours later after the court’s stay order was issued — that it had along with other Malaysian authorities and the Myanmar embassy successfully repatriated 1,086 Myanmar citizens whom it described as “illegal immigrants” to Myanmar.

This morning, in an online hearing from 10am to about 1pm, the High Court had heard the lawsuit filed through judicial review by rights group Amnesty International Malaysia and Asylum Access Malaysia.

The hearing was on the leave for judicial review application by both Amnesty International Malaysia and Asylum Access Malaysia.

Following the hearing, the two groups’ lawyer New Sin Yew told Malay Mail that the High Court has fixed March 9 to deliver its decision on the leave application.

“Meanwhile extension of the Interim Stay granted yesterday is allowed for the remainder from the 1,200 who have not been deported till March 9,” he said.

New confirmed that the issue of the Malaysian government’s deportation of the 1,086 individuals — despite the court’s stay order yesterday — was raised in the hearing today, but said the High Court will first decide on the application for leave for judicial review before deciding whether to ask for an explanation on the deportation move yesterday.

New told Malay Mail that the Attorney General’s Chambers (AGC) had in the online hearing today objected to the application for leave for judicial review by Amnesty International Malaysia and Asylum Access Malaysia, based on the grounds of whether the court has jurisdiction to hear the lawsuit and whether the two groups had locus standi or legal standing to file such a lawsuit.

In the judicial review application filed on February 22 by Amnesty International Malaysia and Asylum Access Malaysia via applicants Asylum Access Berhad and Aimal Sdn Bhd, the three respondents named were the Malaysian Immigration director-general, the home minister and the federal government.

The judicial review bid by Amnesty International Malaysia and Asylum Access Malaysia includes the names and details of three United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) document holders and 17 minors who had at least one parent still in Malaysia.

The two groups had wanted the court to cancel the respondents’ decision to deport the three UNHCR document holders recognised as refugees, quash the respondents’ decision to deport the 17 children, and quash the respondents’ decision to deport the 1,200 detained Myanmar nationals back to their home country.

The two rights groups also asked the court to issue three separate prohibition orders against the respondents disallowing the deporting of the three UNHCR-recognised refugees, the 17 children and the 1,200 persons.

Today, New confirmed that the lawyers for Amnesty International Malaysia and Asylum Access Malaysia do not have information yet on who were the 1,200 Myanmar nationals who had been detained and which of them were part of the 1,086 deported yesterday to Myanmar, also confirming that the lawyers do not yet have information on the exact time of deportation yesterday of the 1,086 individuals.

The current status of the 17 children and the three UNHCR-recognised refugees named and listed in the lawsuit are unknown for now, with no information yet on if they were or were not part of the 1,086 deported yesterday.

New also said lawyers for the two rights groups had during the online hearing today said that the Malaysian government should disclose information on who were the 1,200 Myanmar nationals who had been detained and which of them were part of the 1,086 persons deported yesterday.

In the initial stay order issued by the High Court yesterday and sighted by Malay Mail, it had specified the names of the 17 children and the three UNHCR-recognised refugees and also referred to the 1,200 individuals collectively.

The High Court had in the stay order yesterday ordered a suspension of the respondents’ decision or action to deport the three to Myanmar, as well as the suspension of similar decisions or actions by Malaysian authorities to deport the 17 children to Myanmar, and the suspension of similar decisions or actions to deport the 1,200 other individuals, until the court decides on the application for leave for judicial review.

The Immigration Department’s announcement yesterday on the deportation of the 1,086 persons did not say what time the repatriation exercise was carried out or completed, and did not touch on the lawsuit or the stay order granted yesterday.

The Immigration Department had however insisted that the 1,086 Myanmar citizens were repatriated to Myanmar voluntarily without being forced to do so by everyone, also asserting that those of the Rohingya ethnicity or asylum seekers were not part of the 1,086 deported. The 1,086 had been detained in immigration detention centres nationwide since 2020, the department had said.

The Malaysian authorities’ move yesterday to deport the 1,086 individuals despite an unresolved court case has drawn stern criticism, including from federal Opposition MPs, as well as human rights groups.

Amnesty International Malaysia yesterday highlighted the uncertainties and risks that the 1,086 would face upon their return amid political uncertainties in Myanmar, noting that the UNHCR has been denied access to Malaysia’s immigration detention centres since August 2019 and was not given a chance to access the 1,200 to check if any of them are registered refugees or asylum seekers.

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