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Malaysia sends back 1,100 to Myanmar amid warnings from rights groups

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    Kyodo News

Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia   /   Wed, February 24, 2021   /   09:50 am
Malaysia sends back 1,100 to Myanmar amid warnings from rights groups An immigration truck carrying Myanmar migrants from Malaysia back to their homeland, is seen heading towards the Naval base in Lumut, outside Kuala Lumpur on February 23, 2021. (Agence France Presse/Mohd. Rasfan)

Malaysia on Tuesday sent back roughly 1,100 Myanmar nationals who had been detained after attempting to enter the country, while rights groups warned they could face persecution in a country ruled by the military following a coup early this month.

The Immigration Department said in a statement that three Myanmar navy ships took the detainees home from the Lumut naval base in northern Perak state.

The Kuala Lumpur High Court issued a one-day interim order on Tuesday halting the repatriation process, but by then the detainees had already boarded the ships and the vessels left the port later.

The order came after rights groups Amnesty International and Asylum Access Malaysia filed for a legal intervention on Monday to stop the deportation, saying they had information that asylum seekers and refugees are among the detainees to be sent back.

The groups also said there are children in detention with at least one parent still in Malaysia.

Earlier reported figures of those to be deported were 1,200. It could not be ascertained immediately why the actual number sent back was less.

Malaysia's immigration authorities have described those marked for deportation as "illegal immigrants" who do not have certificates showing they are refugees, or passports. They also say those detainees do not include Rohingya Muslims.

Yante Ismail, spokeswoman in Kuala Lumpur for the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, said by phone that at least six individuals are refugees registered with the UN agency.

"As UNHCR has not received approval from immigration authorities to access detainees in immigration detention centers, we are concerned that there may be others of concern to UNHCR in the group," she said.