The UK's announcement this week that it would not support search and rescue operations to save migrants in the Mediterranean Sea is "appalling" and an affront to human dignity, a United Nations human rights expert has said.
The UK's declaration came out earlier this month in a statement to Parliament but was widely reported on Tuesday.
Carrying out search and rescue missions just encourages other migrants to take the perilous journey, the government said.
"We do not support planned search and rescue operations in the Mediterranean," Joyce Anelay, minister of state for the Foreign Office, stated.
"We believe that they create an unintended 'pull factor,' encouraging more migrants to attempt the dangerous sea crossing and thereby leading to more tragic and unnecessary deaths," she said.
François Crépeau, United Nations Special Rapporteur on the human rights of migrants, stated Thursday that it essentially means the UK is willing to let migrants drown to serve as an ineffective migration deterrent.
"Governments that do not support the search and rescue efforts have reduced themselves to the same level as the smugglers," Crépeau stated. "They are preying on the precariousness of the migrants and asylum seekers, robbing them of their dignity and playing with their lives."
"Migrants are human beings and just like the rest of us they too have rights. They too have the right to live and thrive. To bank on the rise in the number of dead migrants to act as deterrence for future migrants and asylum seekers is appalling. It’s like saying, let them die because this is a good deterrence," he said.
"Moreover, the increasing number of persons fleeing from conflict, violence and oppression requires a new and concerted strategic approach by European States towards asylum seekers," he added.
Kate Allen, Amnesty International UK Director, also denounced the UK's dropping of supporting for search and rescue efforts, stating: "This is a very dark day for the moral standing of the UK."
"History will judge this decision as unforgivable. When the hour came, the UK turned its back on despairing people and left them to drown," Allen stated.
The International Organization for Migration estimates that 3,200 migrants have died so far this year attempting to cross the Mediterranean. In a report (pdf) issued last month, the organization states that the Mediterranean is "the deadliest sea in the world for migrants."