India criticises UN Security Council response to refugee crisis

United Nations, Nov 24 (IANS) India has accused the Security Council of legitimising a “morally challenging” response to the refugee crisis by calling for the destruction of boats they use to flee across the Mediterranean to Europe.

India’s Deputy Permanent Representative Bhagwant S. Bishnoi referred to an October resolution by the Council and said Monday it “leads one to conclude that those risking their lives crossing the Mediterranean are doing so out of greed for pecuniary gain and not to escape persecution and death.”

The resolution authorised countries to seize and destroy boats, rafts and dinghies used for smuggling migrants from Libya to Europe and described it as a measure against human trafficking. For this, the Council invoked the UN Charter provisions for restoring “international peace and security” in the face of threats to peace.

Speaking at a General Assembly discussion on migrant tragedies in the Mediterranean region and the Syrian refugee crisis, Bishnoi said, “The boats that they use, the resolution would lead us to believe, constitute a threat to international peace and security and that they, therefore, need to be seized and destroyed.”

“It would seem that the Council has decreed that people cannot flee for their lives unless they use vessels whose sea worthiness comes up to the standards set by the International Maritime Organization,” he said. Through these measures, “the Council has legitimized a response that is morally challenging in extraordinary proportions,” he added.

Calling for the renunciation of “the language of racism and xenophobia,” Bishnoi said, “Saving lives, providing protection and upholding human dignity cannot but be the first priority. The need is to maintain open borders and not close them.”

Describing the Mediterranean as “the most dangerous border crossing in the world,” he said, “We need to also recognize that tragic deaths at sea are only because of the lack of safe passage,” he added. “If land routes were available, asylum seekers would not have to take to the sea.”

Bishnoi cited the failure of the Council to deal with the primary causes of the refugee crisis to reiterate India’s demands for reforms to make it more representative and responsive. “It is ironical that the crisis is actually created by the Council, through its acts of omission, by failing to fulfill a responsibility reposed on it by the larger membership, to find a political solution to the conflict,” he said. “The need for reform speaks for itself.”

Commending the countries in the region that are sheltering more than four million refugees, he said, “Their contributions are not monetized and there is, therefore, a tendency for them to go unrecognized.”

“The international community should match the solidarity, hospitality and compassion shown by the countries of the region with global partnership,” he said.

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