Xenophobia on the rise: the UN Global Compact for Migration is dead on arrival

Bad news for the last United Nations effort to encourage a coordinated, effective, multilateral response to the growing challenge of massive human displacement

Xenophobia on the rise: the UN Global Compact for Migration is dead on arrival
Men and women shout and gesture while protesting to rally by members affiliated with the Ku Klux Klan and the National Socialist Movement outside a courthouse in Rockwall, Texas - Photo:Johnny Milano/REUTERS
English 23/11/2018 17:22 Gabriel Moyssen Mexico City Actualizada 17:43
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Bad news for the last United Nations effort to encourage a coordinated, effective, multilateral response to the growing challenge of massive human displacement: the Global Compact for Safe, Orderly, and Regular Migration promoted by Mexico and Switzerland is dead on arrival, due to the xenophobic and nationalist policies sweeping the world from the United States to Australia.

In spite of the non-binding, goodwill nature of the agreement, approved on July 13 by all 193 U.N. member statesexcept Washington, which had pulled out of the talks earlier, stressing that its approach to the issue was “simply not compatible with U.S. sovereignty,”—authoritarian governments are using the document as a pretext to advance its isolationist ideas, even in violation of international law.

Take for instance the Australian case, where the new Morrison administration joined this week the list of countries refusing to sign on December 10 the agreement in Marrakech, Morocco, after Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton declared that “we’re not going to surrender our sovereignty—I’m not going to allow unelected bodies dictate to us, to the Australian people.”

Indeed, we are talking about Australia, a nation made up of immigrants as the U.S., that runs offshore detention facilities on Manus Island and Nauru designed to deter people from coming by boat to claim asylum, a practice the U.N. has said is illegal under international law and “may intentionally put lives at risk.”

Of course, the radical position assumed on the matter by Eastern and Central European countries is better known, since it has been an integral part of the discourse upheld by leaders such as Hungary’s Viktor Orbán in recent years.

Yet there was a novelty this time: the young (32) Austrian chancellor Sebastian Kurz, who rules in coalition with the anti-immigration Freedom Party, said on October that his government view “some points of the pact very critically, such as the mixing up of seeking protection with labor migration.”

Kurz was followed by his regional counterparts. Czech Prime Minister Andrej Babis said that the global compact “it’s not clearly interpreted and it could be abused. The U.S. has pulled out, Hungary too, now Austria. I don’t like the fact that it blurs the distinction between legal and illegal migration.”

At the same time, Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki expressed that “our regulations, our sovereign rules on border protection and migration control are our absolute priority.”

Openness and collaboration

The opposition to the global compact could not come at a worse time for the openness and collaboration needed to address the serious problems the world is facing.

In the case of Western Europe, it comes when a Pew report (October 22) highlighted that as the surge in immigration drops back to pre-2015 levels, the fever pitch of concern has also abated across eight key countries, including Germany, France, the United Kingdom, Spain, and Italy.

A median of 23% in these nations named immigration as one of the top two problems facing their country, down from a median of almost half in November 2015, at the height of the Syrian refugee crisis.

It is no wonder that the German Federal Chancellor Angela Merkel vehemently defended the agreement before the lower house of Parliament in Berlin, remarking that “there are people who say they can solve everything themselves and don’t have to think about anyone else, that is nationalism in its purest form.”

In the same vein, Louise Arbour, the U.N. Special Representative for International Migration, said that “a lot of reasons that are advanced for disengaging are either mistaken or do not reflect what this compact is all about. One of its main objectives is to reduce, if not to eliminate altogether, unsafe, chaotic, illegal poorly managed migration, which is in nobody’s interest.”

Other countries pulling out of the agreement are Croatia, Bulgaria, Romania, and Israel, while Slovakia has “reservations.”

The European Commission is suing the “illiberal alliance” of its member states Hungary, Poland, and the Czech Republic for refusing to accept refugees under a 2015 Brussels relocation plan to relieve pressure on Greece and Italy, where the vast majority of migrants were arriving.

The commission, the European Union’s executive body, accused the three countries at the European Court of Justice of “non-compliance with their legal obligations on relocation.” The Luxembourg-based tribunal could impose heavy fines to Budapest, Warsaw, and Prague.

In short, the global compact calls its signatory states to collect data on migration, adopt data-supported policies, not to violate migrants’ human rights, and to make honest attempts to integrate immigrants.

The text specifically takes care of the “sovereignty” objection, reaffirming “the sovereign rights of states to determine their national migration policy and their prerogative to govern migration within their jurisdiction.”

The U.N. document does not hold that some reasons for migration, as wars, may be more valid than others, such as poverty. Also avoids applying the terms “legal” and “illegal” to migration.

Regretfully, the issue has been taken hostage by politicians in the U.S. and elsewhere, who at the light of yesterday’s Thanksgiving Day, are obsessed with the manipulation of public sentiments and foundational myths since the Pilgrims and Pocahontas until our present day.

Editing by Sofía Danis
More by Gabriel Moyssen

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