Forced returns to Myanmar must stop immediately, says UN rights chief

UN human rights chief Volker Turk on Wednesday called for a moratorium on any forced returns of refugees and migrants to Myanmar, given its dire human rights crisis.

This followed news that Malaysia deported two Myanmar nationals who had sought protection through the UN refugee agency on Oct. 6.

On the same day, more than 100 other Myanmar nationals, some of whom had serious protection concerns, were also deported without any adequate assessment of their situation as required by international law, said the UN Human Rights Office.

Since the beginning of Myanmar’s military coup on Feb. 1, 2021, at least 70,000 people have fled Myanmar, and more than one million remain internally displaced from their homes, said the UN.

A further one million Muslim Rohingya refugees have found refuge in Bangladesh.

The UN office said this adds to the millions of Myanmar migrants who have sought economic opportunities in other countries of the region over the past years, many with irregular status.

“With rising levels of violence and instability, and the collapse of the Myanmar economy and social protection systems, this is simply not the time to be returning anyone to Myanmar,” Turk said.

“This is especially the case for anyone with specific protection concerns, such as political activists or military defectors, who are at grave risk upon return.”

The UN rights chief called on Malaysia and other states to ensure that no individual is forcibly deported to Myanmar.

He said that any Myanmar national considered for return must be provided with due procedural guarantees, including an individual assessment of their situation in line with international norms and standards.

Returns that take place from indefinite detention or detention in manifestly inadequate conditions are unlikely to be truly voluntary and should be avoided.

Since February 2021, the UN Human Rights Office has documented numerous cases of reprisals or punishment of Myanmar nationals who have returned to the country from abroad.

People who have fled the country and are considered by the military to be opposed to their coup are at risk of torture in detention and the death penalty.

Under international law, principles of non-refoulment prohibit returning people to a country where they are at real risk of serious harm upon return, including persecution, torture, ill-treatment or other grave human rights violations.

“It is essential that in light of the prevailing situation in Myanmar, now more than ever, that States do not return people to suffering and danger and provide them with a secure legal status while their country remains in crisis,” Türk said.

Source: Anadolu Agency