New Delhi: People who are forced to flee from their homes or are displaced need to be treated with dignity, UNHCR Assistant High Commissioner Gillian Triggs said, lauding India’s efforts in opening its borders to refugees.
Triggs, who is on a four-day visit to India, was speaking at the inauguration of the Charkha exhibition at the National Gandhi Museum.
She praised India’s efforts to the protection of Tibetans and the Sri Lankan Tamils.
“One of the first reasons that I wanted to come to India was the fact that India has a very long history of support for refugees. India opened its borders and it protected many people over many centuries,” Triggs said.
Linking Mahatma Gandhi’s use of the spinning wheel (charkha) to self-reliance, Triggs said people who are forced to flee from their homes, who are displaced to be treated with dignity and a part of that search for dignity is self-reliance.
“I understand that this was very much behind Mahatma Gandhi’s thinking that to be able to spin this, the concept to do this yourself, was a way of empowering them (people) and of showing that they could be independent and self-reliant,” she said.
“We both value India’s contribution to protection for people in need. But we also value the contribution that they make as refugees to the communities… there are many examples of the support that India has given more recently to the people of Afghanistan and people fleeing from Myanmar,” she added.
Triggs said the UNHCR has the mandate to offer protection to those who have been forced to flee. “We understand that this recalls the spirit or adds to the concept to uplift the poorest and the most deprived of people that are, sadly in these very troubled times, very vulnerable.”
“But we’d suggest that all too often, those who are displaced, who are refugees are among the most vulnerable in any country because they fled with nothing and they depend on all of us to gain or regain the self-reliance or self-sufficiency, that’s so important,” Triggs said.