United Nations: India has accused the UN Security Council of creating the refugee crisis by failing in its responsibility as it asked the international community not to close the borders for refugees and cautioned them against propagating racism and xenophobia.
"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," India's Deputy Permanent Representative to the UN Ambassador Bhagwant Bishnoi told the UN General Assembly here yesterday.
Asserting that nations need to refrain from the temptation of reducing benefits available to asylum seekers in order to discourage them from seeking succour, he said that erecting "razor wire fences" to keep out refugees undermines the notion of common humanity and "strikes a blow at the very concept of the United Nations."
"It is also important that we do not speak the language of racism and xenophobia," he added. Blaming the powerful Security Council for creating the refugee crisis, he said the failure of the UN organ to deal with the situation highlights the crucial need for its reform.
"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. The need for reform speaks for itself," Bishnoi said.
Criticising the UNSC, he said some resolutions by the Council lead nations to believe that boats used by refugees to escape persecution "constitute a threat to international peace and security and that they need to be seized and destroyed."
"To us 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.
Is this what is meant by the R2P or Right to Protection? By securitizing refugee movement, the Council has legitimized a response that is morally challenging in extraordinary proportions," he said.
The High Commissioner for Refugees has noted that about 60 million people have been displaced as a result of war and persecution, unprecedented since the Second World II. Over 4,000 lives have been lost crossing the Mediterranean last year and more than 3,511 this year alone.
"The Mediterranean is truly the most dangerous border crossing in the world. It is also a fact that refugee crisis may be here to stay with us for a while. It is truly a humanitarian crisis of exceptional proportions. The moral implications of the manner in which we handle it will be equally significant," he said.
Bishnoi stressed that the tragic deaths at sea are only because of the lack of safe passage and if land routes were available, asylum seekers would not have to take to the sea. While countries of the Middle East region have given shelter to more than four million refugees from Syria, the international community needs to be conscious of the need to support those who bear the greatest burden, he said.