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United Nations: Malaysia is not required to deport Myanmar refugees to their country

The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees said on Friday that Malaysia should not deport refugees, after Reuters reported that it plans to return 1,200 Myanmar citizens to their country.


Officials and sources told Reuters this week that Malaysia had agreed to return the refugees after the Myanmar army, which seized power in a February 1 coup, offered to send three naval vessels to transport citizens held in three detention centers.


"The principle of non-refoulement applies in Malaysia also within the framework of customary international law binding on all states," said Yanti Ismail, a spokeswoman for the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees in Kuala Lumpur, in an emailed statement.


Khairallah Daoud, Director-General of Immigration in Malaysia, confirmed on Thursday that 1,200 Myanmar citizens would be deported, but he did not say if they were refugees.


Malaysia does not officially recognize the refugees and treats anyone who arrives without official papers as an illegal immigrant.


Malaysia is home to more than 154,000 asylum seekers from Myanmar.


Rights groups have expressed concern about the safety of Myanmar's refugees after the military coup.

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