12/15/2022, 15.28
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Malaysia could deport 114 Myanmar nationals who tested positive for COVID-19

In February 2021, right after the coup in Myanmar, Malaysia repatriated 1,086 Myanmar refugees, while detaining 114 who had tested positive for COVID-19. Amnesty International and other groups urge the government not to act. A group of migrants was expelled in October, including deserters from Myanmar’s military, whose life would be at risk if repatriated.

Kuala Lumpur (AsiaNews) – A court in Malaysia has lifted a stay on the deportation of 114 refugees from Myanmar, prompting criticism from human rights groups.

A brutal civil war is raging in the former Burma, starting in February 2021, after a military coup ousted the democratically elected civilian government of Aung San Suu Kyi.

According to the United Nations, in less than two years the number of internally displaced people reached 1.4 million, with more than 49,400 refugees seeking refuge abroad.

In February 2021, at the start of the crisis, Malaysia's government repatriated 1,086 Myanmar nationals, ignoring a High Court's order to stay deportations and allow them to remain temporarily.

Some 114 refugees remained in Malaysia because they had tested positive for COVID-19. Later, then Interior Minister Hamzah Zainudin demanded the stay be revoked, claiming that the people in question had agreed to return to Myanmar.

Humanitarian groups disagreed, challenging the minister’s claim that the refugees had voluntarily agreed to go home.

In a joint statement, Amnesty International Malaysia and Asylum Access urge the current Malaysian government, led by newly elected Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim, to reconsider its plans, since the 114 Myanmar nationals held under immigration detention include children and potential asylum seekers, said Amnesty Malaysia Executive Director Katrina Maliamauv.

Back in October, Myanmar's exiled National Unity Government (NUG), composed of former elected officials from Aung San Suu Kyi’s National League of Democracy, drew attention to a report by Reuters, which claimed that the Malaysian government had expelled 150 Myanmar nationals that month, including several defectors from Myanmar’s military whose life would be at risk once home. Some had already applied for asylum.

According to Human Rights Watch, Malaysia repatriated more than 2,000 Myanmar nationals between April and October.

For his part, then-Interior Minister Hamzah said that the United Nations should not meddle in the country's internal affairs, noting the government would take action against anyone who violates national laws regardless of where they come from.

Malaysia is not a signatory to the 1951 Refugee Convention, but for the United Nations the principle of non-refoulement of refugees and asylum seekers is binding on all states because it is part of customary international law.

At the end of September, according to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), there were 183,430 refugees and asylum seekers in Malaysia, 157,910 from Myanmar.

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