Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) says the decision by the Malaysian Government to deport 1,086 Myanmar nationals from Malaysia, despite a court order to temporarily halting the deportation, sets a dangerous precedent.
MSF’s Head of Mission Dirk van der Tak says: “This deportation takes place only weeks after the military coup in Myanmar. The recent unlawful arrests and detainment of healthcare workers, and people from the wider general public in Myanmar, are a clear indication that the safety of the deportees cannot be guaranteed upon return.”
"We are particularly concerned by the claims that asylum-seekers and refugees are among those who were deported Their return would constitute a violation of the principle of non-refoulement, which is binding on Malaysia as part of customary international law,” Dirk van der Tak adds.
It has been more than 1.5 years since the United Nations High Commission for Refugees’ (UNHCR) access to Immigration Detention Centres (IDCs) was suspended. As a consequence, the Malaysian authorities can currently not legitimately claim that no refugees are among those who were deported. MSF supports calls made by Malaysian Civil Society, and a group of 27 MPs and Senators, to grant UNHCR immediate access to determine the status of those seeking protection. UNHCR’s access to all Immigration Detention Centers should be restored to ensure support for those in need of protection.
MSF has had an operational presence in Malaysia since 2015. At a primary health clinic in Penang the organisation provides medical and mental health services to refugees, particularly Rohingya people, who are effectively excluded from work, healthcare and other social services. MSF also conducts mobile clinics in remote areas of the state and provides medical care at a number of Immigration Detention Centers. The MSF team is currently responding to the COVID-19 pandemic in Malaysia by referring suspected COVID-19 cases to government health facilities, providing COVID-19 health education to asylum seekers and refugees in addition to ensuring the continuity of care for patients under long-term treatment.