The Myanmar Embassy in Kuala Lumpur said today that the 1,086 Myanmar nationals who were deported yesterday had wanted to go home despite a court order being issued to stop it from happening.
The statement came a day after the group left Malaysia on three ships, defying the Kuala Lumpur high court, which issued a stay against the government to stop the deportation of what was originally meant to be 1,200 people amid a public outcry. The court’s review of the deportation proceeded at 10am today.
“Myanmar embassy, in collaboration with Malaysian officials, re-examined the Burmese nationals in the detention centers and issued them a Certificate of Identity (CI) and deported them to Myanmar in accordance with their wishes,” the embassy said in a statement today, noting that the group left Malaysia via three warships at 5:30pm.
The embassy also said that the group had been detained in Malaysia for a “long time” and was having difficulty returning home due to flight restrictions caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. It added that those deported were mostly individuals who had overstayed their visas.
“Burmese nationals in these detention centers were not arrested for crimes but for overstaying their visas. Although a legal work permit has been issued, it has been transferred to other occupations. They were originally detained after being convicted under the Immigration Act for entering Malaysia illegally,” the statement added.
Photos shared by the embassy today showed mostly male Myanmar nationals preparing to board the vessels. They wore face masks, carried pieces of paper with numbers printed on them, and underwent nasal swab tests.
One of the Myanmar vessels was seen departing the Lumut naval base in Perak at 5:30pm yesterday via marinetraffic.com, while the other two were photographed at the naval base.
Human rights groups had urged the Malaysian government to reconsider sending the Myanmar nationals back to their homeland, as “human rights violations are currently dangerously high” amid protests against the military coup there.
“Malaysia’s immigration authorities have shown a blatant disregard both for the basic rights of Myanmar nationals and an order by the Malaysian High Court,” Linda Lakhdhir from the Human Rights Watch said in a statement today.
Seventeen of the deportees originally set for deportation were reportedly minors with Malaysian parents. Three were also registered with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees.
Some Myanmar nationals also criticized the deportation in the comments on the embassy’s page.
“Why didn’t you act like this before? Why now? The people at the Malaysian-Burmese embassy are the same with military dogs,” commenter Lue Naung said. “Shame on you!”
“I want to go back too. But the embassy is not reliable as they are opening and closing at the same time,” said another person, who seemed to be living in Malaysia but wants to go back to Myanmar.
Editor’s note: This story was updated with the Myanmar embassy’s statement and reactions.
Correction: 1,086 Myanmar nationals were sent home.
Additional reporting by Min Ye Kyaw.
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This article, Embassy says 1,086 Myanmar nationals in Malaysia wanted to go home, originally appeared on Coconuts, Asia's leading alternative media company.