Highlights of UN migration pact

AFP . United Nations, United States | Update:

Central American children travelling in a migrants` caravan, play at a temporary shelter in eastern Tijuana, Baja California state, Mexico, on 6 December 2018. Thousands of Central American migrants, mostly Hondurans, have trekked for over a month in the hopes of reaching the United States. Photo: AFPA UN migration pact will be adopted at a conference in Morocco on Monday despite a wave of defections, mainly from European countries, and opposition from the United States.

Here is a look at what is in the Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Legal Migration as it is formally called, and why it has stirred controversy.

- Two years of talks -
The decision to negotiate the first international framework for migration was taken at the UN General Assembly in September 2016 but the United States, home to one of the world's largest migrant populations, announced in December last year that it would not take part in negotiations.

A final text was agreed in July, but since then Hungary, Australia, Israel, Poland, Slovakia, the Czech Republic, Austria, Switzerland, Bulgaria, Latvia and Italy have quit the pact or expressed serious reservations.

- Not legally binding -
It is not a treaty or a formal agreement. It is a compact, which means it expresses the political commitment of states to achieve the 23 goals outlined in the text. Far-right groups argue that the pact is an affront to national sovereignty and weakens the authority of governments over their borders and foreign policy.

The 34-page compact presents a "non-legally binding, cooperative framework" that "fosters international cooperation among all relevant actors on migration, acknowledging that no state can address migration alone, and upholds the sovereignty of states and their obligations under international law".

- Migrants have rights -
The compact aims to protect the human rights of migrants, but does not create a right to migration, as claimed by far-right groups. Among the objectives agreed by governments are commitments to use detention only as a last resort, to enhance consular protection and provide basic services to migrants.

- Legal pathways to migration -
Governments supporting the compact have agreed to open up more avenues for legal migration to encourage labour mobility, education opportunities and prevent migrants from falling victim to traffickers. They also agreed to review recruitment of migrant workers to ensure processes are fair and ethical.

- Fighting xenophobia -
The compact includes a pledge to fight all forms of discrimination, xenophobia and intolerance against all migrants. Migration has become a hot-button issue in election campaigns in many countries, but the compact specifies that governments should promote "an open and evidence-based public discourse on migration and migrants" to generate a "more realistic, humane and constructive perception".

- Where are the migrants? -
There are about 258 million migrants worldwide, or 3.4 per cent of the global population, according to the United Nations, which calculates that the total number has grown by 49 per cent since 2000. UN experts say climate change and other factors will be drivers of future, big waves of migration.

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