Reveal list of asylum seekers, refugees also deported to Myanmar, Immigration told

Yiswaree Palansamy
·3-min read
Myanmar migrants to be deported from Malaysia are seen inside an immigration truck, in Lumut February 23, 2021. — Reuters pic
Myanmar migrants to be deported from Malaysia are seen inside an immigration truck, in Lumut February 23, 2021. — Reuters pic

KUALA LUMPUR, Feb 27 ― The All Party Parliamentary Group Malaysia (APPGM) on Refugee Policy has urged the Immigration Department to release the list of asylum seekers and refugees identified by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), but were still deported to Myanmar.

In a statement today, the body said that while it respects the important mandate and role of the Immigration Department, as well as its efforts to reduce numbers in detention, the information it demands is important, seeking to also know the department's verification processes.

“However, we demand that the Immigration Department disclose how many refugees and asylum seekers who were identified by UNHCR were indeed in the deportation list, even while the Immigration Department’s own statements have claimed that all persons being repatriated to Myanmar were undocumented migrants and that none were refugees or asylum seekers.

“How was the process of verification conducted and what has happened to those who were determined to be refugees?” the statement, undersigned by Chan Ming Kai (PKR-Alor Setar) and Ahmad Tarmizi Sulaiman (PAS-Sik) read.

Chan is the chair of the APPGM on Refugee Policy, while Ahmad Tarmizi is the secretary.

In the statement, the duo said that although Malaysia is not a signatory to the UN's 1951 Refugee Convention, the country has a long tradition of welcoming refugees on humanitarian grounds and have done so on many occasions.

They also urged the government to urgently develop a solution to the current issue, to ensure that refoulement does not happen in future, risking the lives of the oppressed.

The duo proposed that the government immediately establish a credible and accountable coordination mechanism to conduct verification process to ensure that no refugees and asylum seekers are subjected to refoulement.

The said that the mechanism should verify the status of individuals to be deported, and the voluntariness to be repatriated.

“Such a mechanism must at least include Wisma Putra, the Joint Task Force on Refugees, and an independent body such as Suhakam,” they said, referring to the Malaysian Human Rights Commission.

The APPGM on Refugee Policy is a cross-party entity of lawmakers established specifically to review policy on refugees and asylum seekers in the country and make recommendations to the Government of Malaysia on refugee policy that are aligned to international standards as well as appropriate for Malaysia's social, economic and cultural context.

A coalition of international human rights organisations yesterday highlighted its concerns that Malaysia had shipped children to Myanmar alone where they risked repercussions of their families who fled the South-east Asian country for asylum.

The coalition includes the Asia Pacific Refugee Rights Network, the Asian Forum for Human Rights and Development, the Asean Parliamentarians for Human Rights and the International Detention Coalition.

The coalition said it had received reports that at least two of the deported children had been separated from their asylum-seeking families who had gone to Malaysia.

Despite assurances from the Immigration Department that those deported did not include Rohingya refugees or asylum seekers, it said there is a substantial risk that the group includes refugees and asylum seekers, including unaccompanied children.

The Malaysian Immigration Department had deported 1,086 Myanmar nationals, including UN refugee cardholders, to their home country last Tuesday, in defiance of a Kuala Lumpur (KL) High Court order.

The coalition also strongly urged Putrajaya to grant UNHCR immediate and unfettered access to immigration detention facilities, as well as to investigate the deportation of the 1,086 refugees since it was in defiance of the interim stay order granted by the High Court in KL.

Of the original 1,200 refugees scheduled to be deported, 114 were not handed over to the Myanmar authorities as the extended stay order was issued before they could be handed over.

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