Wednesday, August 4, 2021

NGOs obtain leave to proceed with legal action on deportation of Myanmar refugees

Lawyer says the court has rejected the Attorney-General’s Chambers' objection, holding that NGOs play an important role in vindicating the rights of the vulnerable.

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Two NGOs have obtained leave to proceed with a judicial review to challenge the government’s decision to repatriate 1,200 Myanmar refugees.

This follows the decision by High Court judge Mariana Yahya in dismissing the Attorney-General’s Chambers’ (AGC) objection to the application for leave for judicial review by the NGOs, Asylum Access Berhad and Aimal Sdn Bhd.

Lawyer Lim Wei Jet, who represented the NGOs, when contacted said the court rejected the AGC’s argument that the NGOs lacked locus standi to file the judicial review application.

“It held that NGOs play an important role in today’s society to vindicate the rights of the vulnerable. The court acknowledged that we live today in a much more liberal society where concepts of accountability and transparency are part and parcel of our lives,” Lim said.

He also said the court rejected the AGC’s argument that decisions of the respondents are immune from judicial review (except on procedural non-compliance) because of the ouster clause in Section 59A of the Immigration Act.

The respondents in the application are the immigration director-general, the home minister and the Malaysian government.

The provision states that the decisions of the immigration director-general or home minister are only subject to judicial review if they involve the issue of procedural compliance.

“The court ruled that the judicial review application is not frivolous and vexatious, and thus needs to be subjected to a full hearing,” Lim said, adding that the court fixed March 23 for the next case management.

He said the court also granted a stay against the immigration director-general and the home minister from deporting the remaining 114 Myanmar nationals until disposal of the entire judicial review.

Mariana delivered her decision today through online proceedings, where she was joined by senior federal counsel S Narkunavathy, Ahmad Hanir Hambaly, Mohd Sabri Othman and M Kogilambigai.

The applicants were represented by Ambiga Sreenevasan, Gurdial Singh, New Sin Yew and Gokul Radhakrishnan.

On Feb 22, the two NGOs filed a judicial review for an order to overturn the government’s decision to deport the refugees, including children, who were being held in the country’s immigration detention centres. They were scheduled to be sent back onboard Myanmar navy ships.

In their application, they claimed that if the refugees were sent back to Myanmar, their lives would be at risk.

In a press statement on Feb 23, immigration director-general Khairul Dzaimee Daud said a total of 1,086 illegal immigrants from Myanmar detained at immigration depots nationwide since last year had been deported from the navy base in Lumut.

The repatriation programme was implemented by his department in collaboration with the armed forces, the National Task Force and the Myanmar embassy.

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