UN migration conference widens divisions

The pact favours international cooperation on migration between all relevant actors, conceding that no country can handle the issue of migration alone.
Sunday 16/12/2018
Belgian Prime Minister Charles Michel walks past UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres (L) and Special Representative of the United Nations Secretary-General for International Migration Louise Arbor during the opening session of a UN Migration Conference in Marrakech, December 10. (AP)
Regardless of divisions. Belgian Prime Minister Charles Michel walks past UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres (L) and Special Representative of the United Nations Secretary-General for International Migration Louise Arbor during the opening session of a

CASABLANCA - A UN conference seeking to strengthen cooperation on international migration ended with divisions between countries. The conference, however, did adopt a migration pact despite the withdrawal of several countries, including the United States.

The non-binding Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration was approved by 164 countries in Marrakech during the 2-day conference.

“It is a sign that states have signed the Global Compact for Migration and it needs to be implemented now, including undocumented migrants’ right,” Michele LeVoy, director of the Platform for International Cooperation on Undocumented Migrants, posted on Twitter.

The United States and 15 other countries either opted out or expressed concerns about the agreement. Some said the pact would allow the United Nations to impose migration policies on its members and others claimed it will result in poverty and crime and steal jobs from taxpaying citizens.

Incoming Brazilian Foreign Minister Ernesto Araujo said Brasilia would withdraw when the new government takes office in January. “Because immigration cannot be dealt with as a global issue but according to each country’s reality and sovereignty,” Araujo said on Twitter.

A lawmaker from France’s far-right National Rally party lashed out at backers of the compact as “traitors of Marrakech,” echoing rising anti-immigration sentiment among populist governments.

However, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres insists the agreement is not legally binding. “It is a framework for international cooperation… We must not succumb to fear and false narratives,” he said.

Defenders of the pact argue that migrants deserve to be treated equally because they have played a significant role in the economic and social development of both rich and poor countries.

“What a shameful time to be alive, where International Human Rights Law is cast aside by far-right governments, where we turn our backs on those fleeing violence. The UN migration pact provides humane solutions to the biggest global challenge of the century,” tweeted Spanish activist Carlota Nunez Strutt.

The almost 40-page pact favours international cooperation on migration between all relevant actors, conceding that no country can handle the issue of migration alone. It respects the sovereignty of countries and the obligations of international law.

It details 23 objectives among which are the fight against the negative factors and the structural problems that push people to leave their country of origin, saving lives and the strengthening of the transnational action against migrant smuggling.

Moroccan Foreign Minister Nasser Bourita said: “We don’t want this compact just to be ink on paper.”

The conference took place as more African migrants, including Moroccans, are attempting to cross the Strait of Gibraltar despite treacherous conditions.

More than 57,000 migrants have reached Spain this year, most of them by sea, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees said. That figure represents a 130% increase over last year, making Spain the main point for migrants entering Europe.

However, the overall number of migrants crossing the Mediterranean has fallen approximately 30% from last year.

Morocco has seen a dramatic increase in the number of sub-Saharan migrants seeking to use the North African country as a threshold to reach Europe. However, thousands of those migrants have settled in Morocco in the last decade. Since September 2013 when Moroccan King Mohammed VI called for a new migration policy, Rabat has allowed thousands of migrants to regularise their status.

The Moroccan initiative to fight illegal immigration set a precedent in Africa.

A study by Moroccan think-tank OCP Policy Centre said seven out of ten migrants from West Africa remain on the continent.

Suliman, a 27-year-old from Cote d’Ivoire, is seeking to fulfil his dream of becoming a professional football player.

“I came to Morocco seven months ago to join a football team but the legal rules here are a bit difficult to accept a foreign player,” said Suliman who is working in the construction sector in Casablanca. “I will try hard to find a team although it’s tough. At least I earn better here than in my country.”

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