The United Nations Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration (GCM) has been signed by 164 nations during a December 10-11 conference in Marrakesh, Morocco. The compact, also known as the Marrakesh Agreement, has been largely ignored by the mainstream media and most politicians in several countries, though it has stirred controversy among those concerned about the effects of mass migration across the globe today. Although the program is “non-binding” and does make some allowances for national sovereignty over immigration decisions, the clear direction of the agreement is to facilitate unrestricted global migration, with regulations applied by the U.N. as to how this can be achieved.
The signing of the pact coincides with the 70th anniversary of Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and indeed the agreement is couched in the language of rights. In essence, the accord seeks to grant all migrants access to rights and privileges that currently apply only to refugees and citizens of a nation, as well as increasing transnational cooperation in facilitating smooth migration across borders.
Who Has and Hasn’t Signed
Most U.N. member states are now signatories to the compact, with a few notable exceptions. President Donald Trump had previously stated that the U.S. would not be joining the program because it would be “inconsistent with U.S. immigration and refugee policies.” Around 15 other nations have declined to participate, including Australia, Austria, Croatia, Israel, Chile, and several Eastern and Central European countries.
…will migrants end up suffering more than ever?
In a joint statement with top government ministers, Australian Prime Minister said the compact was “inconsistent with our well-established policies and not in Australia’s interest” and would “risk encouraging illegal entry to Australia and reverse Australia’s hard-won successes in combating the people-smuggling trade.”
France has signed, despite some yellow vest protesters rallying against the agreement. Although Belgium – which also saw yellow vest protestors over the weekend – has signed up to the compact, it has not done so unbloodied. The coalition government has split over this decision, leaving Prime Minister Charles Michel with a U.N. agreement, but not a functioning government. Theo Francken, the migration minister, withdrew his party’s support, stating that the text is “… way too pro-migration. It doesn’t have the nuance that it needs to have to also comfort European citizens.”
While most people expected poorer countries and pro-immigration Western governments to sign up, it is notable that the pact has also been signed by Eastern U.S. allies and rivals Russia, China, South Korea, and Japan – though, as the agreement is non-binding, it is not yet clear to what degree each country will honor it. A Russian diplomat has said that “Russia, like any other state, has the right not to take note of those provisions of the Global Compact that may come into conflict with its national interests, legislation, as well as the international obligations it upholds,” Russian news agency Tass reports. “Many countries probably have questions concerning the negotiated text. Russia is not an exception,” said the diplomat.
What does the Pact entail?
The GCM is largely the brainchild of the International Organization for Migration (IOM), with cooperation from UNHCR and other U.N. agencies, plus input from participating countries given during a negotiation period.
Speaking at the Marrakesh conference, U.N. Secretary General António Guterres described the agreement based on two central ideas: “Firstly, that migration has always been with us, but should be managed and safe; second, that national policies are far more likely to succeed with international cooperation.”
To give a few brief but key objectives described in the document:
- Promote faster, safer and cheaper transfer of remittances and foster financial inclusion of migrants…
- Establish mechanisms for the portability of social security entitlements and earned benefits…
- Empower migrants and societies to realize full inclusion and social cohesion …
- Eliminate all forms of discrimination and promote evidence-based public discourse to shape perceptions of migration…
- Create conditions for migrants and diasporas to fully contribute to sustainable development in all countries…
- Prevent, combat and eradicate trafficking in persons in the context of international migration…
- Save lives and establish coordinated international efforts on missing migrants…
- Invest in skills development and facilitate mutual recognition of skills, qualifications and competences…
- Strengthen international cooperation and global partnerships for safe, orderly and regular migration.
Can the GCM Achieve its Stated Aims?
UN Special Representative for International Migration, Louise Arbour, said the compact “will make an enormous positive impact in the lives of millions of people – migrants themselves, the people they leave behind and the communities that will then host them.” Surely most of us would not wish to see anybody’s genuine human rights violated, including those of migrants, with whom most people can empathize. But while the GCM professes to promote the positive aspects of migration and minimize the negative, will migrants end up suffering more than ever?
Adoption of #MigrationPact in #Marrakech paves the way for managed and safer migration for all, as @UN's @louise_arbour calls it "a historic moment" and great achievement for multilateralism. Watch highlights here. pic.twitter.com/XACmMslf5G
— UN News (@UN_News_Centre) December 10, 2018
One primary goal of the GCM is to give all migrants the same level of rights as refugees. The document states:
Refugees and migrants are entitled to the same universal human rights and fundamental freedoms, which must be respected, protected and fulfilled at all times. However, migrants and refugees are distinct groups governed by separate legal frameworks. Only refugees are entitled to the specific international protection as defined by international refugee law. This Global Compact refers to migrants and presents a cooperative framework addressing migration in all its dimensions.
If everybody is considered to be on an equal footing when it comes to migration, does it not follow that genuine refugees will be forced to compete with millions of non-urgent cases? Will this agreement benefit those fleeing conflict and human rights abuses, or will genuine refugees find themselves pushed to the back of the line? We have already seen cases where their needs have been sacrificed for the well-being of other migrants. Australia, which refused to join the GCM, was recently happy to adopt the UNHCR Global Compact on Refugees, pointing out that a refugee and a migrant is not necessarily the same thing.
At the self-congratulatory conference, a speech was given by Cheryl Perera, who purports to be a child rights activist. She founded the charity OneChild, which states on its website that “One child exploited is one child too many,” yet she ignores the children’s’ issues that have been brought up during the migrant crisis in Europe. Most migrants have been identified as fighting-age men – what has happened to their wives and children, left behind to fend for themselves in impoverished or war-torn regions?
Furthermore, hundreds of migrants claiming to be children who have entered the U.K. have now been identified as adults, sometimes in their mid-thirties and -forties, who have been allowed to attend British schools alongside regular students, putting them in needless danger. Children are also the most vulnerable and likely targets for human traffickers, and unaccompanied minors are easily sold into slavery. European police intelligence unit, Europol, admitted in 2016 that 10,000 unaccompanied migrant children have gone missing in the E.U. Where are they?
Article 4 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights states: “No one shall be held in slavery or servitude; slavery and the slave trade shall be prohibited in all their forms.” Not all modern slavery is linked to mass migration, but people trafficking and slavery are booming in a world of lax migration rules. In 2017, there were an estimated 40 million slaves worldwide, according to the U.N. International Labor Organization and Walk Free Foundation.
While the Marrakesh agreement might go under the appealing title of the Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration, there are grave doubts as to how this deal can create anything other than worldwide chaos.