Prominent international rights activists called on Malaysia's government to investigate the deportation of nearly 1,100 Myanmar nationals back to their home country despite a court order banning the move.
Ucanews.com reported Malaysia's High Court granted a temporary stay on the planned deportation of 1,200 Myanmar nationals who have been held in immigration detention centers while a proper judicial review of their case is undertaken.
Immigration authorities ignored the court's Feb. 23 decision and day handed 1,086 of the migrants and asylum-seekers over to the Myanmar navy, which had sent ships to Malaysia to transport them back home.
Catholic bishops in Malaysia had urged the government to refrain from deporting hundreds of Myanmar nationals, including refugees and asylum-seekers, reported ucanews.com.
The Catholic Bishops' Conference of Malaysia said the church has been concerned about the fate of Myanmar nationals since local and international media reported the Malaysian government's plan.
"It has been recently reported in several local and international media sources that Malaysia is about to repatriate 1,200 Myanmar nationals from our shores, and among them are also refugees and asylum-seekers. At a time of grave political uncertainty in Myanmar, our faith tells us that we cannot remain silent and be complicit to this action toward those who have fled due to a grave humanitarian crisis," the bishops said in a statement Feb. 23.
"Guaranteeing personal security to the most vulnerable refugees, migrants and asylum-seekers must not only be governed by international laws, but also by the laws of humanity, which are grounded on mercy, compassion and love."
Ucanews.com reported the deportations follow a military coup that ousted Myanmar's elected government and amid a tumultuous political situation with widespread anti-coup protests.
The bishops pointed out that in Pope Francis' recent encyclical, "Fratelli Tutti," he reminded people that everyone is part of a larger human family and that human fraternity "transcends the barriers of geography and distance."
The church cannot turn a blind eye to those in need and the vulnerable, irrespective of who they are and where they come from, especially in times of a crisis, they added.
The bishops called on the Malaysian government to not subject the lives of Myanmar nationals to an uncertain and unknown fate by simply repatriating them in these uncertain times.
"We also ask that an international organization such as the UNHCR be allowed to verify these individuals so that their personal security can be guaranteed. As caring Malaysians, we should not subject anyone to situations that are marked by fear, uncertainty and unease," the statement said.