Rights group urges Malaysia not to deport Uighurs back to China

(Photo: REUTERS / Athit Perawongmetha)Suspected Uighurs from China's troubled far-western region of Xinjiang, rest inside a temporary shelter after they were detained at the immigration regional headquarters near the Thailand-Malaysia border in Hatyai, Songkla March 14, 2014. About 200 people rescued by police from a human smuggling camp in southern Thailand on Wednesday are suspected Uighur Muslims from China's troubled far-western region of Xinjiang, say Thai police.

A Malaysian human rights group has asked the government not to deport 155 undocumented Uighurs and have expressed fears over what would happen to them when they are sent back to China.

Malaysian rights group Suaram raised unease over the plan to deport the Uighurs, a Chinese Muslim minority group, found in some apartments in Kuala Lumpur last week by immigration authorities.

A statement issued by Suaram said: "Whatever the allegations against them, they [the Uighurs] should have the right to a trial, and their case should be heard and adjudicated by the judiciary," Radio Free Asia reported October 7.

The group said it was concerned the deportation might put their lives at risk, especially "since there are 76 children involved."

"The immigration department should not deport them without the decision of the court."

Suaram noted that while Malaysia is not bound by the United Nations' refugee treaty, international principles dictate that governments cannot send "persons to places where they may face persecution."

"We call on the government to work with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and allow the UNHCR immediate access to the 155 Uighurs in order to determine the ground of them fleeing the country and their eligibility to refugee status," the rights group said.

The group castigated the Malaysian government in December 2012 after immigration authorities deported six Uighurs to China while the UNHCR was processing their refugee claims.

"Such incident should not repeat again," it said.

Authorities in Muslim-majority Malaysia have expressed alarm over reports that scores of its citizens have gone to Syria to take part in its civil war, prompting fears they could join groups such as the brutal Islamic State group and import extremist ideas on their return home.

Similar fears have been expressed in neighboring Indonesia, which recently arrested four Uighurs suspected of having links with the Islamic State.

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