The Global Compact on Migration was adopted on December 10, 2018 in Marrakesh, Morocco under the auspices of the United Nations, and held pursuant to the “New York Declaration for Refugees and Migrants” (19 September 2016), which decided to launch a process of intergovernmental negotiations leading to the adoption of a global compact for safe, orderly and regular migration.
Marrakesh – This non-binding document, which has recently been ratified by the UN General Assembly by a vast majority of nations, offers state and non-state actors a comprehensive framework and guidelines for collaborating and sharing responsibility on migration. There are approximately 258 million migrant people worldwide, about 3.4% of the world population
The text has polarized the criticisms of nationalists and anti-migration groups. Under the pressure of local political currents or of their opinions, thirty countries were not represented despite their previous commitment on this document.
Its critics see it as an encouragement to an uncontrolled migratory flow. Populist political parties, especially in Europe, have mobilized their efforts against the adoption of this pact, which led to the implosion of the ruling coalition in Belgium with the resignation of Flemish nationalist ministers and of the Prime Minister Charles Michel.
Because of somewhat tumultuous conditions of electoral majorities in a few countries, the Compact on migration has been instrumentalized or manipulated. European nationalists have mobilized against it, replenishing the political clashes, from East to West of Europe, on this hot issue which hampers the collaboration of the states. On December 16, thousands of demonstrators in Brussels marched against the UN compact, following the Flemish right-wing parties’ call for the march, amid fears that the pact could lead to an increase in immigration.
The United States, which had withdrawn from the drafting of the text in December 2017 by judging it contrary to the immigration policy of President Donald Trump, launched a new attack against the Compact and against any form of “global governance”.”Decisions on border security, on who is allowed to reside legally or to obtain citizenship, are among the most important sovereign decisions that a country can take,” the US diplomatic mission hammered at the UN.
At the beginning of December, a meeting in Brussels was held with Marine Le Pen, Head of the French far right, and Steve Bannon, former advisor to Donald Trump, to denounce the Compact; they brandished it as a scarecrow by populists across the EU in the approach of European elections next May.
These reactions are taking place even as the Compact respects the states’ responsibility of guaranteeing their borders, that the migration policy is a prerogative of the national sovereignty, and that the countries together commit to control migratory flows, dismantle networks, and combat trafficking.
As was stated by Louise Arbor, the UN Special Representative for Migration Sunday evening during a press conference in Marrakesh, “the Compact does not create any right to migrate nor does it place any obligation on the States.”
The compact identifies major principles – protection of human rights, women and children, recognition of national sovereignty – and makes a list of proposals to help countries cope with migration – exchange information and expertise, and foster integration of migrants. It prohibits arbitrary detentions, allowing arrests only as a last resort.
On the other hand, Human rights advocates find it insufficient, particularly on migrants’ access to humanitarian aid and basic services or the rights of migrant workers.
Today, there is concern regarding the increasing number of irregular migrants, and states commit to working together to minimize the adverse drivers that compel people to leave their countries of origin.
If well managed, migration can favour economic growth and can help us face the growing imbalances in demographic trends and global warming across regions and continents. If left totally unregulated, it can lead to tensions, as we witness today.
Thus, as I show in my book New Horizons of Muslim Diaspora in Europe and North America , migration is both a challenge and an opportunity. It should be addressed jointly and globally, through the promotion and strengthening of mechanisms of a multilateral nature, involving countries of origin, transit, and destination.
Moving forward, as the UN has ratified this Compact and countries implement it, migration can be made safer for all people, particularly migrants in vulnerable situations, including women and girls who often fall victims to smuggling and human trafficking.
This can be done by reducing risks, ensuring respect for human rights, and making regular migration more accessible than the dangerous, irregular routes often used.
Migration should become an act of choice rather an act of despair pushed by civil wars, catastrophes, or climate change. Migration is shared responsibility of sending, receiving, and transit countries. No one state can address it alone, nor should any leading state take the lead in saying what to be done for and about it.
As the world celebrates today the 70th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, let us remember that when we protect all migrants and refugees and treat them with dignity and respect, we are setting a moral standard for the world.
Moha Ennaji is President of the South North Center for Intercultural Dialogue and Migration Studies in Morocco and Professor of Linguistics and Migration Studies at the University of Fès.