Press Release

Forced returns to Myanmar must stop immediately, says Türk

26 October 2022

GENEVA - UN Human Rights Chief Volker Türk today 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 6 October. 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.

Since the beginning of the military coup on 1 February 2021, at least 70,000 people have fled Myanmar, and more than one million remain internally displaced from their homes. A further one million Muslim Rohingya refugees have found refuge in Bangladesh. This adds to the millions of Myanmar migrants who have sought economic opportunities in other countries of the region over 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,” Türk 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 High Commissioner called on Malaysia and other States to ensure that no individual is forcibly deported to Myanmar and that any Myanmar national considered for return is 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 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-refoulement 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.

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