Global Compact is a vital opportuntity for international cooperation on a humane approach to migration

Monday, December 10, 2018 - 12:47

Cooperation and compassion are vital as world leaders arrive in Marrakech, Morocco today for the UN intergovernmental conference to adopt the Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration.

The Compact is the first ever attempt to get governments to sign up to an agreement on migration policy at international level.

It’s certainly not perfect, but the Compact is an important first step in the right direction on migration. ActionAid’s key concern is that it puts the security of countries borders’ above the safety and security of people in need of protection and that it lacks any legal authority.

Despite this, countries wishing to be seen to take a hardline approach to migration and border security, including Italy, the US and Australia, are pulling back from the disscussions in Marrakesh and refusing to sign the Compact.

These tactics won’t address voters’ concerns about migration in the long-term. This can only be acheived by countries coming together to improve the Compact and agree a fair and compassionate approach to migration.

ActionAid’s analysis of the Compact’s 23 objectives welcomes its recognition of the positive contribution migration can play in achieving the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals and the importance of tackling drivers of forced migration, such as increasing inequality, shrinking political space, conflicts and persecution.

The Compact recognises the importance of integration and social cohesion policies and the fight to end all forms of discriminations.

But it does not give clear solutions on issues including protection, in particular the lack of clarity on alternatives to detention, legal and secure migration pathways, rights-based returnees policies and the criminalisation of solidarity.

While the increasing role of climate change in displacing people both internally and internationally is recognised, there is a need to build on this and ensure the rights of those forced to flee due to extreme climate events are legally protected. This is an issue that ActionAid is highlighting at the UN climate negotiations in Katowice, Poland, this week.

In several sections the security of borders prevails over the safety and security of people. A clear example of this is the externalisation of borders strategy of the European Union, which aims to reduce arrivals at any cost. This is demonstrated by the EU-Turkey statement and Italy’s agreement with Libyan authorities. These agreements are despite mounting evidence and testimonies about abuses, violation of human rights and torture at  migrant camps in Libyan. 

The Compact does not send out clear messages by condemning the EU’s approach or calling out the inhumane crackdown on migrant’s rights being seen across the world, from the US/Mexico border to Australia’s detention centres in Papua New Guinea.

Another critical aspect is the gender dimension. Even if the Compact recognises the importance of gender responsive migratory policies, its fails to take into account the multiple and intersecting forms of discrimination faced by migrant women on the grounds of sex, age, race and other relevant characteristics (ethnicity, migratory status, disability, geographic location, income, class).

The Compact should also recognise the right to autonomous movement of women, without requiring permission from male relatives, and consider the importance of access to sexual and reproductive health care. The opportunities for women’s leadership, independence and empowerment along migratory routes is also overlooked by the Compact.

We are one of many organisations to sign up to the Marrakech Women’s Rights Manifesto calling for women to be at the centre of migration policy

Finally, the document is non-legally binding and does not impose any limits to state sovereignty in defining migration policy. This raises serious doubts about its capacity to influence migration policies through a new and multilateral governance system.

Some states have said they will not endorse the Global Compact, inlcuding the US, Italy, Austria, Australia, Bulgaria, Hungary, the Czech Republic, Poland and Slovakia. These moves are clearly aimed at gaining popularist support at home, at the expense of migrants and people seeking asylum, who are facing huge challenges due to insecure migration routes, severe human rights violations, intolerance and xenophobia.

Yes, the concrete effects of the Global Compact can be doubted, but refusing to adopt the agreement means losing the opportunity to play a collective role in addressing the challenges of migration and recognising its benefits.

ActionAid will be in Marrakech for the Global Compact conference meeting with other civil society organisatoins and policy-makers to promote a better way forward on migration based on the above analsyis.  Cooperation and right-based policies are needed to solve the challenges of migration. It can be done if states put human rights and not their border security at the heart of migration policies.

More widely, ActionAid’s European offices are supporting the Welcoming Europe campaign for an approach to migration that reflects shared values of commmunity, compassion and kindness.