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What is the Global Compact for Migration
The Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration was signed by 164 nations in Marrakech. This is what the non-binding agreement that encourages international cooperation stipulates.
After a heated political debate that went on for months, the Global Compact for Migration was signed on the 10th and 11th of December by 164 countries (with the notable exception of Italy), in Marrakech, Morocco. But what does this UN document stipulate, specifically? And why has it been so controversial?
The history of the Global Compact for Migration
As is explained by the official website, the “Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration” is an agreement under the aegis of the United Nations. It’s the first ever agreement of its kind to have been negotiated between different governments with the goal of tackling on every dimension of international migration through an integrated approach. The phenomenon, after all, affects 258 million people: in other words, 3.4 per cent of the world’s population, for one reason or another, has abandoned its country of origin.
The history of the accord began on the 19th of September 2016, at the UN General Assembly, when the 193 representatives of the member states signed the New York Declaration on Refugees and Migrants. The declaration’s appendix provided a launchpad for further negotiations and consultations, whose end result was the Global Compact.
258 million migrants = 258 million stories, journeys & memories.
On Tuesday’s #MigrantsDay, let’s continue to advocate for migration #WithDignity in a safe & orderly manner: https://t.co/22xr77AONh pic.twitter.com/6h2MwALCIU
— United Nations (@UN) December 18, 2018
The Global Compact isn’t legally binding
The first thing that has to be clarified is that the Global Compact for Migration isn’t a binding piece of legislation and in no way impinges on state sovereignty; it simply establishes certain guidelines to follow for tighter cooperation in handling international migration. This is necessary because, as the document clearly states, “no state is able to face the challenges and opportunities of this global phenomenon by itself”.
Negotiators drew inspiration from well-established foundations: international law, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (which just turned seventy), and many other UN Conventions, such as the Paris Agreement, the 17 Sustainable Development Goals, and the list goes on. Through a long and laborious path, all these documents were cross-referenced with research data, studies and expert contributions.
The 23 objectives for international migration
This long process of mediation resulted in 23 objectives, themselves declined into a series of actions.
- Collect and utilise accurate and disaggregated data as a basis for evidence-based policies
- Minimise the adverse drivers and structural factors that compel people to leave their country of origin
- Provide accurate and timely information at all stages of migration
- Ensure that all migrants have proof of legal identity and adequate documentation
- Enhance availability and flexibility of pathways for regular migration
- Facilitate fair and ethical recruitment and safeguard conditions that ensure decent work
- Address and reduce vulnerabilities in migration
- Save lives and establish coordinated international efforts on missing migrants
- Strengthen the transnational response to smuggling of migrants
- Prevent, combat and eradicate trafficking in persons in the context of international migration
- Manage borders in an integrated, secure and coordinated manner
- Strengthen certainty and predictability in migration procedures for appropriate screening, assessment and referral
- Use migration detention only as a measure of last resort and work towards alternatives
- Enhance consular protection, assistance and cooperation throughout the migration cycle
- Provide access to basic services for migrants
- Empower migrants and societies to realise full inclusion and social cohesion
- Eliminate all forms of discrimination and promote evidence-based public discourse to shape perceptions of migration
- Invest in skills development and facilitate mutual recognition of skills, qualifications and competences
- Create conditions for migrants and diasporas to fully contribute to sustainable development in all countries
- Promote faster, safer and cheaper transfer of remittances and foster financial inclusion of migrants
- Cooperate in facilitating safe and dignified return and readmission, as well as sustainable reintegration
- Establish mechanisms for the portability of social security entitlements and earned benefits
- Strengthen international cooperation and global partnerships for safe, orderly and regular migration.
The US and Italy not among the 164 signatories
Above is an extreme synthesis of the document which was approved in Marrakech last December. Notably missing from the list of 164 countries that signed the agreement were Donald Trump’s United States, as well as the bloc known as the Visegrád Group (Czechia, Hungary, Poland and Slovakia), joined by Austria, Bulgaria and Switzerland.
Even the Italian government led by Giuseppe Conte, chose not to take part in the Marrakech summit, and the decision on whether to sign the Compact was put to Parliament. The first debate, held on the 19th of December, failed to produce a decision. The motion that was approved, put forward by the majority, commits the government to evaluating the issue in greater depth before making a decision.
— United Nations (@UN) December 14, 2018
The question was brought back for discussion on the 27th of February, with a motion for Italy to commit to “not signing the Global Compact” and “not contributing in any way to financing the Compact’s trust fund”. The motion was approved with only 112 votes, while the government’s majority abstained. After long discussions, then, Italy finally rejected the deal. With the same mechanism, the government also committed to “adopting initiatives to immediately create hotspots in North African countries to examine requests for asylum”.
The Global Compact for Refugees
Around mid-December 2018, with decidedly less widespread media coverage, the UN General Assembly approved, with a significant majority, another Global Compact: dedicated to the issue of refugees. These are often confused with migrants, but the term indicates a very different condition. A migrant is, in a general sense, anyone who leaves their country of origin; a refugee, on the other hand, is a person for whom returning to their country of origin would be too dangerous, a definition that established by the Geneva Convention in 1951.
This other compact was also drafted as a consequence of the New York Declaration in 2016, and it also not binding but focuses on improving international cooperation.
The @UN General Assembly has just agreed to a historic #RefugeeCompact. It is the biggest effort to broadly share refugee responsibilities that I have witnessed in 34 years of work with refugees. pic.twitter.com/CWiWUMvAuW
— Filippo Grandi (@RefugeesChief) December 17, 2018
It has four objectives:
- Ease the pressures on host countries
- Enhance refugee self-reliance
- Expand access to third-country solutions and “resettlement“
- Support conditions in countries of origin for return in safety and dignity.
In this case, only the US and Hungary voted against the measure, and even abstentions were few. Italy, for example, voted in favour.
Featured image © Christopher Furlong/Getty Images
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