Amnesty International is gravely concerned about up to 24 refugees from the Chinese Uighur minority who have been arrested this month by Malaysian authorities. Reports suggest the Uighurs may already have been deported to China where they would be at serious risk of persecution.

“Amnesty International has very real concerns for the safety of these asylum seekers given the level of repression that Uighurs face in China,” said Amnesty International Australia’s refugee spokesman Dr Graham Thom.

“If reports that Malaysia has deported the Uighurs to China are confirmed, then Malaysia is in flagrant breach of international law.”

Last month, an outbreak of ethnic tension in China’s Uighur-majority Xinjiang province left at least 15 people dead. Two years on from riots and mass arrests in this same region, Beijing’s crackdown on Uighurs continues and those speaking out against abuses are routinely silenced.

The case involving the Uighurs is the latest example of Malaysia’s appalling track record on refugee rights.

“The ink is not yet dry on Australia’s deal with Malaysia, but Malaysia is already arbitrarily arresting vulnerable refugees - and there are strong fears they will be sent back to danger,” said Dr Thom.

“Under the deal with Australia, Malaysia promised not to send back refugees. Given its past record and this latest worrying development, how can authorities there be trusted?"