Morocco meet­ing to adopt UN mi­gra­tion pact de­spite with­drawals

Global Com­pact for Safe, Or­derly and Reg­u­lar Mi­gra­tion will be for­mally adopted in Mar­rakesh

Arab News - - News Middle East - AFP Mar­rakesh Reuters

Representatives from around the globe are gear­ing up for a ma­jor con­fer­ence in Morocco to en­dorse a UN mi­gra­tion pact, de­spite a string of coun­tries shun­ning the ac­cord.

The Global Com­pact for Safe, Or­derly and Reg­u­lar Mi­gra­tion was fi­nal­ized at the UN in July fol­low­ing 18 months of ne­go­ti­a­tions and will be for­mally adopted at the two-day gath­er­ing in Mar­rakesh start­ing on Mon­day.

The non-bind­ing UN ac­cord, which aims to pro­mote a com­mon ap­proach to grow­ing mi­grant flows, has be­come a tar­get for pop­ulist politi­cians who de­nounce it as an af­front to na­tional sovereignty.

The US quit ne­go­ti­a­tions last De­cem­ber, and was fol­lowed by Hun­gary seven months later.

Since then, Aus­tralia, Is­rael, Poland, Slo­vakia, the Czech Repub­lic, Aus­tria, Switzer­land, Bul­garia, Latvia and the Do­mini­can Repub­lic have ei­ther pub­licly dis­avowed the pact or no­ti­fied the UN they are not par­tic­i­pat­ing.

Rows over the ac­cord have erupted in sev­eral EU nations, threat­en­ing to tear apart Bel­gium’s coali­tion gov­ern­ment and push­ing Slo­vakia’s for­eign minister to ten­der his res­ig­na­tion.

But key back­ers led by Ger­man Chan­cel­lor An­gela Merkel will be in Morocco to en­dorse the pact and the UN re­mains up­beat that it can help the world bet­ter cope with the hot-but­ton is­sue.

“I am very con­fi­dent: A large num­ber of states con­tinue to keep their word, they reached agree­ment on July 13 in New York af­ter very se­ri­ous and very in­tense ne­go­ti­a­tions,” said UN spe­cial rep­re­sen­ta­tive for mi­gra­tion Louise Ar­bour.

“The coun­tries drop­ping out of the process to­day had af­ter all ob­tained con­ces­sions dur­ing the ne­go­ti­a­tions, and I must ad­mit that I find it a lit­tle sur­pris­ing.”

The global pact lays out 23 ob­jec­tives to open up le­gal mi­gra­tion and bet­ter man­age the in­flux as the num­ber of peo­ple on the move world­wide has in­creased to over 250 mil­lion, or just over three per­cent of the world’s pop­u­la­tion.

The deal had been held up as an ex­am­ple of a UN diplo­matic suc­cess achieved with­out the US at a time when Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump is ques­tion­ing the rel­e­vance of the world body.

Af­ter the Mar­rakesh con­fer­ence, the Gen­eral Assem­bly is set to adopt a res­o­lu­tion for­mally en­dors­ing the mi­gra­tion deal.

The pact has not only come un­der fire from right-wing politi­cians, but has also faced crit­i­cism from ac­tivists who ar­gue that it does not go far enough on hu­man­i­tar­ian aid, ser­vices and the rights of mi­grants.

Gotz Schmidt-Bremme, head of the UN ini­tia­tive Global Fo­rum on Mi­gra­tion and De­vel­op­ment, ad­mit­ted that the ac­cord had be­come a “con­tro­ver­sial text,” but in­sisted a com­mon ap­proach was needed.

“Maybe the ben­e­fits of le­gal mi­gra­tion were over-em­pha­sised and we for­got about the chal­lenges... we un­der­es­ti­mated the need of com­mu­ni­ties that above all want to see mi­grants in­te­grate,” he said.

Pro­po­nents of the deal have lashed out at what they see as a cam­paign to dis­credit the ac­cord and turn it into a do­mes­tic po­lit­i­cal is­sue that can whip up vot­ers.

“We are wit­ness­ing from some po­lit­i­cal sec­tors the ma­nip­u­la­tion, the dis­tor­tion of the ob­jec­tives of the pact,” said Antonio Vi­torino, head of the In­ter­na­tional Or­ga­ni­za­tion for Mi­gra­tion.

“Cer­tainly there are chal­lenges, ir­reg­u­lar im­mi­gra­tion is a threat, but we must re­act to the neg­a­tive nar­ra­tive by mo­bi­liz­ing po­lit­i­cally.”

The lead­ers of Ger­many, Spain, Greece and Por­tu­gal are set to at­tend the con­fer­ence, while French Pres­i­dent Em­manuel Macron is send­ing a junior minister as he deals with the “yel­low vest” protests at home.

Bel­gium’s liberal premier Charles Michel won the sup­port of par­lia­ment to head to Morocco and back the ac­cord, but his coali­tion risks los­ing the back­ing of a key Flem­ish na­tion­al­ist party over the is­sue.

From the US to Europe and be­yond, right-wing lead­ers have been tak­ing in­creas­ingly dra­co­nian mea­sures to shut out mi­grants in re­cent years.

Mi­grants, in­ter­cepted off the coast in the Mediter­ranean Sea, line up af­ter ar­riv­ing in south­ern Spain.

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