UN Human Rights Chief says more attention must be paid to migrant boat crisis

The UN Human Rights Chief has called the EU response to the migrant boat crisis “inadequate” and said Asian countries must also do more to help the plight of thousands of migrants arriving on its shores.

GENEVA, SWITZERLAND (MAY 26, 2015) (UNTV) – The UN’s top human rights chief urged on Tuesday (May 26) the world to pay renewed attention to the plight of the world’s sea migrants at a speech in Geneva.

UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein’s, issued a warning to the Human Rights Council that “the disproportionate focus on enforcement, and the militarization of that enforcement, raises a large number of concerns.

He ssaid that any law enforcement must respect international standards for human rights.

In what is the first time Al Hussein has addressed the Human Rights Council when it’s not yet in session, he called on the council to make the plight of sea migrants a “top priority” and consider a special session on it, recalling that those who had taken to the Mediterranean did so out of fear and need.

Referring to the European Union’s offer to take in 20,000 migrants, the High Commissioner said the response was “inadequate” and called for a more compassionate approach.

“Among these migrants are some of the most vulnerable people in the world. A more humane, less mean-spirited response to their plight would be more worthy of Member States of the United Nations,” Al Hussein said.

He also spoke of the migration crisis in south-east Asia, which has seen at least 1,500 people die at sea in the first months of this year.

While welcoming the offer of Indonesia and Malaysia to provide temporary shelter to those stranded at sea off their coastline, Al Hussein said the gesture “is not enough”.

“The offer of temporary shelter, while welcome, cannot hope to fix the deeper problems,” he said.

He went on to call for all states in the region to fulfil their obligations to rescue all those in peril at sea.

“These people have a right to a future in freedom and dignity in Myanmar. Instead, they face widespread and systematic human rights violations, including ethnic and religious persecution, and the denial of both citizenship and the full range of civil economic, political and social rights,” he said.

The UN rights chief also criticized Australia’s policy of intercepting migrants at sea and sending them to detention centres where conditions are inadequate. He suggested putting in place new channels of safe and legal migration at places of destination.