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Malaysia: UN Experts Appalled By Deportation Of Migrants To Myanmar Despite Court Order


GENEVA (24 February 2021) – UN human rights experts*
are appalled by the Malaysian authorities’ decision to
proceed with the deportation to Myanmar of over 1,000
detained migrants, including children and women at risk and
other vulnerable individuals, despite a court order to
suspend their return.

Immigration authorities on
Tuesday returned 1,086 migrants, including unaccompanied
minors and toddlers as young as three-years-old. However, on
the same day, the Kuala Lumpur High Court had already issued
an order to suspend their deportation pending a judicial
review.

Following the coup d’état on 1 February in
Myanmar and the systematic and widespread violations of the
people’s fundamental rights and freedoms by the military,
as noted by the Human
Rights Council
, the UN experts expressed concern that
returnees might be exposed to serious violations of their
human rights upon their return.

“The Malaysian
authorities in defiance of the court order breached the
principle of non-refoulement, a rule of jus cogens, which
absolutely prohibits the collective deportation of migrants
without an objective risk assessment being conducted in each
individual case.

“Children should not have been
separated from their family, or returned without determining
that their return is in their best interests.”

The
experts said identification processing and analysis of the
migrants’ individual protection needs had not been
adequately carried out.

The migrants have been held in
Malaysia’s immigration detention facilities for prolonged
periods on grounds of their irregular migration status. The
Myanmar military regime had offered to send three navy ships
to transport a total of 1,200 migrants.

The UN experts
wrote to the Malaysian authorities to express their concerns
and urged that they observe the absolute prohibition of
refoulement. States have an obligation not to return a
person, whatever their status, to a country where there are
substantial grounds to believe that the individual would be
at risk of being subjected to torture or other cruel,
inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment, or other
serious human rights violations.

“The failure to
ensure due process safeguards for all migrants including
through case-by-case risk assessments and adequate
protection measures on an individual basis, heightened their
vulnerabilities and risk of exploitation and other
violations upon return,” they said.

The experts
noted that any migrant who is asked to consent to a
voluntary return process must be fully and meaningfully
informed of their choices, and their consent must be given
free of coercion such as the threat of indefinite
detention.

The UN experts urge the Malaysian
authorities to conduct an adequate assessment of the
remaining migrants and accord them the necessary protection
as required.

The UN experts will continue to closely
monitor the situation.

*The
experts
: Mr. Nils Melzer,
Special
Rapporteur on torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading
treatment or punishment
; Mr. Felipe
González Morales,
Special
Rapporteur on the human rights of migrants
;
Working
Group on Arbitrary Detention
: Leigh
Toomey
(Chair-Rapporteur),
Elina
Steinerte
(Vice-Chair), Miriam
Estrada-Castillo, Mumba Malila,
Seong-Phil
Hong

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