Last week, 193 countries around the world agreed on a set of principles to tackle the global issue of immigration. These are contained in the “Global Compact for Migration,” a 34-page document crafted by United Nation members states.
One of the compact’s key goals is making migration more “orderly” (read: legal). But it also emphasizes creating more avenues for people to migrate legally and ensuring that human rights are respected. “Migration has been part of the human experience throughout history, and we recognize that it is a source of prosperity, innovation and sustainable development in our globalized world, and that these positive impacts can be optimized by improving migration governance,” it reads.
Good luck selling that vision to Donald Trump. On the very same day the UN unveiled the compact’s final text, the US president lectured UK Prime Minister Theresa May about how corrosive he considers immigration to be on European culture. The US is one of two countries that are not backing the compact; Hungary is the other.
Earlier this week, Hungarian foreign minister Peter Szijjarto said his country won’t be signing on to the compact, which he called “extreme and biased.” This pact poses a threat to the world from the aspect that it could inspire millions (of migrants),” he said at a news conference.
Even some leaders from participating countries are currently espousing views and implementing policies that go against the compact’s spirit. In Denmark, the government has decided to single out children in neighborhoods with a high proportion of immigrants by requiring them to learn about Danish culture and religious traditions. In Italy, foreign minister Enzo Moavero has threatened to close off his county’s ports to EU ships carrying rescued immigrants.
Still, some see the compact as an important step to increase international cooperation on immigration, despite the different attitudes about it around the world. “Those differences are not going to go away, but the compact provides a framework in which countries can try to find some common ground,” says Kathleen Newland, senior fellow and co-founder of the Migration Policy Institute, a Washington D.C.-based think tank.
The pact’s official adoption ceremony will take place in Marrakesh in December. While agreement is non-binding, and its goals are aspirational, Newland says that over the long-term, it could help shape how countries deal with immigration. Already, it’s taking into account the perspectives of immigrants’ home countries, which are not usually top of mind for officials in destination countries.
Here are the compact’s 23 objectives:
- Collect and utilize accurate and disaggregated data as a basis for evidence-based policies
- Minimize the adverse drivers and structural factors that compel people to leave their country of origin
- Provide accurate and timely information at all stages of migration
- Ensure that all migrants have proof of legal identity and adequate documentation
- Enhance availability and flexibility of pathways for regular migration
- Facilitate fair and ethical recruitment and safeguard conditions that ensure decent work
- Address and reduce vulnerabilities in migration
- Save lives and establish coordinated international efforts on missing migrants
- Strengthen the transnational response to smuggling of migrants
- Prevent, combat and eradicate trafficking in persons in the context of international migration
- Manage borders in an integrated, secure and coordinated manner
- Strengthen certainty and predictability in migration procedures for appropriate screening, assessment and referral
- Use migration detention only as a measure of last resort and work towards alternatives
- Enhance consular protection, assistance and cooperation throughout the migration cycle
- Provide access to basic services for migrants
- Empower migrants and societies to realize full inclusion and social cohesion
- Eliminate all forms of discrimination and promote evidence-based public discourse to shape perceptions of migration
- Invest in skills development and facilitate mutual recognition of skills, qualifications and competences
- Create conditions for migrants and diasporas to fully contribute to sustainable development in all countries
- Promote faster, safer and cheaper transfer of remittances and foster financial inclusion of migrants
- Cooperate in facilitating safe and dignified return and readmission, as well as sustainable reintegration
- Establish mechanisms for the portability of social security entitlements and earned benefits
- Strengthen international cooperation and global partnerships for safe, orderly and regular migration