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Suara Rakyat Malaysia (SUARAM) refers to the deportation order issued by the Immigration Department on 24 January 2024 for UNHCR-registered Bangladeshi refugee, MA Quayum¹. Quayum’s lawyers were only informed of this development six days later. Whether Quayum is still within or has been deported from Malaysia is uncertain.

We strongly condemn this deportation order, as this is in defiance of the Kuala Lumpur High Court’s court decision on 18 January to stay Quayum’s deportation until the conclusion of proceedings of Quayum’s habeas corpus application. Our demand from 18 January still stands: the Immigration Department must fully comply with this court order and immediately cease any subsequent plans to deport Quayum. In addition, we urge that the Home Minister Saifuddin Nasution swiftly intervenes and ensure that this deportation does not take place.

This court order violation ironically belies the claims of provision of “humanitarian assistance” to refugees and asylum seekers propounded by the Malaysian delegation in the Universal Periodic Review (UPR) session last Friday, whilst reinforcing Malaysia’s notorious reputation in treatment of refugees and asylum seekers, which include arbitrary arrests, detention and deportation. It is also noteworthy that Malaysia’s longstanding lack of a national policy framework for protection of this marginalised group has come under the spotlight for the first time since the first UPR cycle, with corresponding or similar recommendations given by at least eight countries from Europe, South America, Western Africa and South Asia.

Violation of the principle of non-refoulement contravenes the fundamental human rights principles of freedom, justice and security for all that the MADANI government has so fervently propounded to 131 countries at the international stage on 25 January 2024. As Malaysia seeks to cooperate with other countries, United Nations agencies and other key partners to “further improve efforts to aid refugees and asylum seekers”, it is imperative that the MADANI government also respects and protects the rights of refugees, including refraining from forcibly returning them to a country where they may face harm.

¹MA Quayum, a member of the Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP), was apprehended in a joint operation conducted by the Malaysian police and the National Security Intelligence (NSI) of Bangladesh on 12 January at his residence in Ampang. He was first detained at the Ampang Jaya District Police Headquarters for six days, and subsequently transferred to the immigration depot in Semenyih. Quayum’s arrest and detention are unwarranted, as Quayum is a UNHCR-recognised refugee and has an active UNHCR card.

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