An NGO has urged the government to take a cautious approach in the deportation of 1,200 Myanmar nationals, particularly the Rohingyas, to prevent them from being persecuted.
Research Centre for the Advancement of the Community and Housing (Reach) coordinator Iskandar Abdul Samad said while the group welcomes government's efforts to resolve the issue of undocumented migrants here, there are serious concerns over the safety of the Rohingyas facing threats of ethnic violence in Myanmar.
"We support (the move) if those deported are real threats to Malaysia's safety or convicted of crimes in Myanmar.
"Our concern is over the Muslim Rohingyas who are unrecognised by the Myanmar government.
"They are victimised because of their religion and ethnicity. In 2017, the Myanmar army drove out 730,000 Rohingyas to Bangladesh in an operation condemned by the United Nations," he said in a statement today.
Iskandar, who is also PAS treasurer, added that the issue of undocumented migrants and refugees from Myanmar must be swiftly resolved, including by arranging for resettlement in a third country.
Reuters previously reported that Malaysia intended to deport 1,200 Myanmar nationals, following their military government's offer to send three vessels expected to arrive here on Feb 21 and depart two days later.
According to the report, the offer was extended to Myanmar citizens detained in Malaysia's immigration depots, including Rohingya refugees.
Immigration director-general Khairul Dzaimee Daud reportedly confirmed the matter and said authorities have agreed to hand over the detainees to Myanmar.
Win Min Soe, a labour attaché at the Myanmar Embassy here, also confirmed the matter.
However, the Prime Minister's Office and Wisma Putra have declined to comment.
Malaysia does not recognise the UN refugee status, hence refugees are viewed under the law as undocumented migrants.
Those arrested in the past include Myanmar's ethnic Chin and Kachin minorities, as well as Rohingyas, largely escaping persecution while under military rule.
Myanmar recognises more than 100 ethnic groups, excluding the Rohingyas that they claimed to be migrants from Bangladesh.
Despite the non-recognition, Malaysia is home to an estimated 154,000 refugees from Myanmar, apart from the larger number of undocumented migrant workers.