Growing Skepticism as Final Vote Nears on UN's Global Compact for Migration

Why not on the Global Compact on Refugees as well?

By Nayla Rush on December 9, 2018

The United Nations "Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration" is to be officially endorsed in a couple of days in Morocco. The closer we are to the date, the less attractive the idea of global governance of migration sounds. The list of countries opposing the compact is growing. Since the United States' withdrawal last year, nine other countries (so far) have followed suit: the Dominican Republic, Australia, Israel, Hungary, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Bulgaria, Poland, and Austria. Other countries (Switzerland, Italy, and Estonia) are delaying their decision pending discussions in parliament and announced they will not be attending the Marrakesh conference next week.

While we witness growing skepticism towards the migration compact, blind endorsement seems to be the rule when it comes to a separate but related agreement, the "Global Compact on Refugees". Apart from the United States (which recently pulled out from the refugee compact) and Switzerland (which is deferring its decision pending parliament discussions), all other member states seem to be on board.

This migration compact is exacerbating existing political tensions in many countries that remain committed to it.

Canada's government, led by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, is set to endorse the compact next week. But while immigration minister Ahmed Hussen defends the text as a non-legally binding tool that serves as a "useful framework" for source, destination, and transit countries for migration, conservative leader Andrew Scheer said the compact will affect Canada's sovereign authority:

It gives influence over Canada's immigration system to foreign entities. It attempts to influence how our free and independent media report on immigration issues and it could open the door to foreign bureaucrats telling Canada how to manage our borders . . . Canadians, and Canadians alone, should make decisions on who comes in our country and under what circumstances.

In Belgium, Prime Minister Charles Michel's coalition government is at risk of losing its parliamentary majority should it endorse the migration compact in Marrakesh next week. His coalition partner, the Flemish right-wing N-VA party, wants nothing to do with the compact and is threatening to pull out from the government. Theo Francken, a key member of N-VA and Belgium's migration minister, explained his party's opposition to the compact: "It's way too pro-migration. It doesn't have the nuance that it needs to have to also comfort European citizens . . . It's not legally binding, but it's not without legal risks." He added that human rights laws were being widely interpreted in EU courts, tying the hands of migration policymakers.

In France, dissenting voices against the government's support of the compact are also getting stronger. Marine Le Pen, leader of the far-right party "Rassemblement National", qualified the compact as an "act of treason". Opposition has grown to include the center-right party, "Les Républicains", the party of former President Nicolas Sarkozy. Lydia Guirous, the party's spokesperson, recently called on President Macron not to sign the Global Compact for Migration. Below is my translation of part of her communiqué:

On December 10 and 11, Emmanuel Macron is about to sign in Marrakesh the United Nations Global Compact on Migration. This text, presented as legally "non-binding", follows nonetheless a logic of promotion of migration. Actually, many countries refuse to sign it, including Switzerland or Australia.

Despite the fact that there have never been so many immigrants on our soil and the number of residence permits issued by France hit a 43-year record high, this text aims in particular to "expand and diversify availability of pathways for migration", "facilitate access to procedures for family reunification for migrants" and "reinforce the provision of services accessible to migrants". The migration compact also proposes to restrict the detention of illegal immigrants "by ensuring that it is only used as a last resort". Finally, it embodies a multiculturalist rationale, contrary to the French republican model, by promoting "mutual respect for the cultures, traditions and customs of host communities and of migrants". We remain persuaded that it is incumbent on migrants themselves to embrace French culture and not on France to adapt to migrants' cultures.

Above all, it is up to the French to decide who enters in France . . . We reaffirm clearly that there is no human right to immigrate to a country of one's choosing. Les Républicains invite the President of the Republic to act responsibly, like other heads of state, by refusing to sign this compact. Every people has the right to decide who it wishes to welcome.

These concerns are legitimate. What I find puzzling is that none of those who oppose the migration compact are pushing to get out from the refugee compact as well. After all, both compacts are based on the 2016 New York Declaration for Refugees and Migrants. And a key problem with both is the misleading nature of their so-called non-legally-binding character.

The refugee compact, a nesting doll of international commitments, is to be endorsed by UN member states in Geneva on December 17 (one week after the adoption of the migration compact in Morocco). The United States was the sole country to withdraw from both UN global compacts. Others should consider following suit, especially those who decided to end their participation with the migration compact; the logic they put forward to get out from one surely applies to the other.

Topics: Refugees