Alarm as Myanmar ships attain Malaysia to choose up detainees | Malaysia Information
The US and the United Nations are calling on Malaysia to stop the deportation of 1,200 Myanmar nationals as this could endanger their lives.
The United Nations Refugee Agency announced Saturday that there were at least six people on its register among 1,200 Myanmar nationals due to be deported from Malaysia next week, while the United States warned that the plan could endanger the lives of deportees.
The comments came when Myanmar naval ships arrived in Malaysian waters to pick up the detainees.
Malaysia will deport Myanmar’s citizens – including asylum seekers – after the Myanmar military, which took power in a Feb. 1 coup, offered to send naval ships to pick them up, officials and refugee groups say.
Malaysia has promised not to deport Rohingya Muslims or refugees registered with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR).
Concerns about the deportation of unregistered asylum seekers remain, however, as the UNHCR has been banned from interviewing detainees to verify their status for more than a year.
Malaysia does not officially recognize refugees and arrests them along with other undocumented migrants.
The UNHCR confirmed the planned deportation of six affected persons registered with it and urged the authorities not to send back those in need of international protection.
“We are concerned that UNHCR in the group may have other concerns,” Yante Ismail, an agency spokeswoman, told Reuters.
Right-wing groups have asked Malaysia to abolish deportation as it would endanger the deportees. Some of the deportees are people from Myanmar’s Muslim and Chinese communities who came to Malaysia before the conflict and persecution at home.
The US embassy confirmed to Reuters that it had raised concerns and reiterated requests for UNHCR access to people in immigration custody. The Malaysian Foreign Ministry had no immediate comment.
The Myanmar embassy in Malaysia did not respond to comments. Facebook confirmed on Saturday that it would bring back the 1,200 people and prioritized returning nationals stranded due to the pandemic.
According to ship tracking website Marine Traffic, three Myanmar flag vessels were anchored outside Malaysia’s Lumut Naval Base on Saturday, including one that is being referred to as a military operations ship.
Two Malaysian sources, asking for anonymity, confirmed that these ships were being sent to pick up the inmates. They are due to leave for Myanmar on Tuesday, Malaysia said.
The US and other western missions in Kuala Lumpur have tried to dissuade Malaysia from continuing, four other sources aware of the matter said.
“Malaysia legitimizes military government by handing over the detainees,” a source said.
Diplomats also urged Malaysia to allow UNHCR to interview the deportees and expressed concern about Malaysia’s cooperation with the Myanmar military government. Malaysia had previously expressed “serious concerns” about the coup.
Coup opponents have been protesting for weeks. Two people were killed on Saturday when police fired to disperse protesters.