Mockery of court and UN: Kuala Lumpur repatriates 1,086 refugees to Myanmar

The court had asked to delay the repatriation. The UN had asked for a check for the presence of political refugees and asylum seekers. For more than a year, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees has not been allowed to visit migrant detention centres.


Kuala Lumpur (AsiaNews) - Despite a court order, the Malaysian government has repatriated 1,086 refugees to Myanmar.

Yesterday the court had blocked the return due to the presence of possible political refugees and because of the situation in the country, which suffered a coup d'état by the military.

Human rights organizations had warned the Malaysian government that the group included members of ethnic minorities fighting with the Burmese army, who would face persecution if repatriated.

The director general of Malaysian immigration Khairul Dzaimee Daud, said that "all the returnees returned voluntarily" and that there were no refugees seeking asylum among them.

Daud also specified that there were no Rohingya but his claims cannot be verified because the country’s authorities have not allowed members of the UNHCR (UN High Commissioner for Refugees) to visit detention centres for over a year.

Yesterday, UNHCR representatives claimed there were members of the Chin and Kachin minorities, who are fighting with the regular army, among the refugees facing repatriation. They would be targeted for persecution if brought back home.

Yesterday morning, however, there was talk of 1200 people to be repatriated. Yesterday evening, only 1,086 were repatriated. No one gave any explanations for the difference.

The migrants had been detained in a military base. From here, with buses and vans, they were transferred to three ships made available by the Myanmar navy.

The repatriation is seen by many observers as Malaysia's bow to military rule, even though Kuala Lumpur had declared days earlier that it was "seriously concerned" about the coup.

Malaysia has welcomed millions of migrants from the poorest regions of Asia - mainly Myanmar, Bangladesh and Indonesia - to use them as low-cost labour, particularly in the construction sector. Due to the pandemic and the resulting economic crisis, the government expelled some 37,000 migrants last year.

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