In late 2015, as Europe grappled with a migration crisis of a scale not seen since the Second World War, the United Nations decided to convene a meeting to address how member nations can respond.
A year later, 193 member countries signed on to the New York Declaration, which called for the adoption of a migration pact by the end of 2018.
As a result, the Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration was born. A draft of the pact was agreed upon by UN members — except for the United States — in July.
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On Dec. 10 and 11, United Nations members will gather in the Moroccan city of Marrakesh to formally adopt the pact.
Canada is expected to sign on, but several countries have expressed reservations.
Here’s a look at the UN’s unprecedented international migrant pact, its objectives and arguments for and against adopting it:
What are the pact’s objectives?
The Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration purports to set out “a common understanding, shared responsibilities and unity of purpose regarding migration.”
It claims to be rooted in a shared understanding that better international cooperation is needed to handle migration in a way that’s fair to states, but protects the human rights of migrants and refugees.
To that end, the pact proposes a “360-degree vision of migration” that recognizes that better cooperation is needed to facilitate safe and orderly migration.
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That “vision” is laid out in the form of 23 objectives.
Some of the objectives have to do with streamlining international migration protocols by way of offering clear information on immigration law and application processes to the public, guaranteeing legal identity and documentation to all migrants, improving “certainty and predictability” in screening processes and sharing data to encourage evidence-based migration policies.
Others cover issues of human rights, and call for the international community to combat trafficking and smuggling, reduce the reliance on immigration detention centres, stray away from discriminatory migration policies and take measures to protect refugees returning to their home countries from unlawful imprisonment, torture and abuse.
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There are also objectives that have to do with minimizing the factors that cause people to want to flee their countries in the first place, such as poverty, lack of food security, inadequate educational and job opportunities, climate change and gender discrimination.
Is it legally binding?
No — the pact sets out a “non-legally binding, cooperative framework,” meaning it’s more of a declaration rather than a legally binding treaty.
Indeed, the pact’s preamble states explicitly that it “reaffirms the sovereign right of states to determine their national migration policy,” meaning governments will not sign away their rights to design their migration policies by signing onto the pact.
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Anne Peters, director of the Max Planck Institute for Comparative Public Law and International Law in Germany, points out that the text of the agreement “does not contain short and clear obligations,” and is more akin to the 2000 Millennium Declaration in terms of legal obligation than it is to, say, the Paris climate change pact.
Writing for the European Journal of International Law’s blog, Peters described the text of the pact as “soft law,” meaning that it is not legally binding.
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However, it’s not completely legally irrelevant either. The pact is worded in a way so as to encourage domestic courts and authorities to consider it over the course of their interpretations of the law.
Immigration agencies could also draw on the pact in making discretionary decisions.
“So overall, signing the migration compact will not be irrelevant in legal terms,” Peters concluded.
Which countries are opposed to the pact?
The United States was the first country to openly oppose the pact, and the only one to not sign on to the initial agreement over the pact in July.
In late November, the Australian government said it, too, will not sign up to the pact, despite playing a key role in drafting it. Australia says it’s concerned signing onto the pact will undermine its policies to deter asylum seekers, which include maintaining offshore detention facilities and turning away boats arriving by sea.
Several former Eastern Bloc states have also renounced the UN agreement. These include Poland, the Czech Republic, Bulgaria, Hungary and Slovakia.
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Italy’s right-wing interior minister Matteo Salvini has stated his opposition to the pact, throwing Rome’s support into doubt.
Austria has said that it will not sign up; Belgium’s prime minister has said he will support the pact, but his right-wing coalition partner has opposed it and threatened to withdraw his support for the government if it signs on.
The Dutch government hasn’t said that it won’t sign, but a recent opinion poll in the Netherlands showed that 41 per cent of people opposed signing on, compared to 34 per cent in favour.
Will Canada be a signatory to the pact?
Canada played an active role in driving the agreement forward, and Immigration Minister Ahmed Hussen said Monday that Canada will sign on, despite Conservatives’ concerns.
On Tuesday, Conservative leader Andrew Scheer rose in the House of Commons and stated that signing on would mean that “foreign entities” would be able to dictate Canadian immigration policies.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau responded by saying that his government would continue to stand up for immigration and support diversity.
“Welcoming people through a rigorous immigration system from around the world is what has made Canada strong, and indeed something the world needs more of, not less of like they want to bring in,” Trudeau said, pointing a finger at Scheer.
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Scheer said he was especially opposed to Objective 17 of the agreement, which states that countries should “promote independent, objective and quality reporting of media outlets… including by sensitizing and educating media professionals on migration-related issues and terminology.”
However, the pact also says signatories must commit to protecting free speech, “recognizing that an open and free debate contributes to a comprehensive understanding of all aspects of migration.”
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The Trudeau government has been flooded with letters from Canadians asking that a national debate be held on the matter before the agreement is signed.
The letters, an example of which was provided to The Canadian Press, claim the UN agreement is attempting to eliminate criticism of the accommodation of migrants and would effectively “label those who complain as racists or haters, thus stifling any freedom of discussion.”
What do supporters of the pact say?
Louise Arbour, the UN special representative for international migration, has argued that signing on to the pact will equip countries to better reap the economic benefits of migration.
“There are many, many countries in the world today that will need to import a part of their workforce,” Arbour said last week. “The demographics are suggesting that if they want to maintain their current economic standards or even grow their economy, they’re going to have to receive well-trained foreigners to meet the labour market demands in their countries.”
She also criticized countries who pulled out or are threatening to pull out of the deal, saying that reneging on the pact “reflects very poorly” on them and goes against the spirit of multi-lateralism.
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The European Commissioner for migration, Dimitris Avramopoulous, has said that adopting the pact would send a “clear signal” to African countries that European states are willing to cooperate them to address the migration challenge.
“It is in the interest of Europe, all the member states and of all countries directly or indirectly involved in migration,” Avramopoulous said on Tuesday.
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The World Economic Forum (WEF) has argued that the pact will benefit all countries.
In August, the WEF published an article by Anne Gallagher, president of the International Catholic Migration Commission, in which she argued that wealthy countries who don’t sign on to the pact will effectively be shooting themselves in the foot.
Gallagher wrote that it was in the best interests of countries to sign on to a pact that places a heavy focus on fighting migrant smuggling and human trafficking.
“Failing to cooperate on these urgent issues effectively means giving up: abandoning hope of any long-term, sustainable solution to irregular, exploitative migration,” she wrote. “This would be a universal disaster, but with a particularly vicious impact on wealthy countries of destination.”
Gallagher also dismissed concerns that the pact would undermine the sovereignty of signatories, stating that countries agreed from the get-go that the pact would not impose legal obligations.
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The French Ministry of Foreign Affairs has stated that the pact does not create a “right to migration” as some critics charge, and indeed doesn’t create any new rights for migrants at all, seeking only to strengthen and protect existing rights.
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The International Federation of the Red Cross said the pact has promise in fixing an existing approach to migration that isn’t working.
“Too many people are dying every day. Too many people are suffering. And too many people are being exploited by traffickers and smugglers who are all too happy to capitalize on the lack of an effective and humane global approach to migration,” the IFRC said.
“We urge all governments to come together, to sign this agreement and, more importantly, to work with us to turn its ambitions into policies and laws that make a difference on the ground.”
— With files from Reuters and the Canadian Press
© 2018 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.
Catholic Bishops react to military coup in Mali
Contrary to the expectations of the people, the leadership of the Episcopal Conference of Mali (CEM) has termed the Tuesday, August 18 military coup in the West African nation as “regrettable” and “a big failure for our democracy” and called for a change of mentality if the country has to put an end to coups.
In an interview with ACI Africa Wednesday, August 19, made available to RECOWACERAO NEWS AGENCY, RECONA, the President of CEM, Bishop Jonas Dembélé said that the governance challenges the country is facing can be managed through dialogue.
“The military coup that led to the ousting of President Ibrahim Boubacar Keïta is regrettable because we are in a state of law and democracy. This is the second time that Mali has had a military coup as a result of the way in which the country is governed. It is a big failure for our democracy even if there were reasons for it,” Bishop Dembélé told ACI Africa.
“It is true that our country has serious challenges including bad governance, the poor management of the economy, corruption, insecurity and so on,” Bishop Dembélé said and probed, “Why is it that we Malians have not managed to engage in dialogue to be able to discuss these problems and face up to these challenges responsibly?”
“Our leaders, our people lack transparency, they hate those who speak the truth and advocate for good governance. This mentality must change for our country to move on,” the Prelate told ACI Africa August 19.
Bishop Dembélé who is a frontline member of RECOWA-CERAO urged the military officials “to ensure a return to democracy as promised but most especially ensuring the new leadership of the country put the people first and tackle the security challenges facing the nation.”
Asked about the role of the Church in the current crisis, the 57-year-old Prelate noted, “For us the Catholic Church in Mali, our role is to preach peace; our role is to preach dialogue. We shall continue in this path of dialogue for peace just like Cardinal Jean Zerbo and some religious leaders initiated.”
“In a state of law, power is not in the hands of certain individuals but to the people. The anger of our people led to this crisis, but we must work for peace and reconciliation in Mali,” Bishop Dembélé said.
He continued in recollections, “The Bishops in Mali have always issued messages before every election in our country sounding the alert and inviting the government to organize transparent elections, ensure good governance and better management of resources.”
“But it seems our messages are never taken into consideration that is why we find ourselves in this situation today,” the Local Ordinary of Kayes Diocese told ACI Africa and added, “If the opinion of the Episcopal Conference of Mali is needed to mediate in bringing back stability and peace in the country, then we are ready.”
As a way forward, the Bishop urged the people of God in Mali to “seek the path to conversion” and to accept dialogue in the spirit of truth and honesty.
“We all want change in our
country, but this change can only be possible if individually we seek the path to conversion. It is for Malians be they Muslims or Christians or members of traditional religion, to do an examination of conscience and accept personal and community conversion in order to engage in sincere dialogue,” he said.
The Malian Prelate added, “Now there is this coup d’état to demand change we really wonder where change should come from. As long as we don’t change our behavior, our mentality, we will always have a repeat of the current situation.”
On Tuesday, August 18, President Keita announced his resignation and dissolved parliament hours after mutinying soldiers detained him at gunpoint, Aljazeera reported.
“For seven years, I have with great joy and happiness tried to put this country on its feet. If today some people from the armed forces have decided to end it by their intervention, do I have a choice? I should submit to it because I do not want any blood to be shed,” President Keita said August 18 during the televised address to the nation.
Rev. Fr. George Nwachukwu
RECOWACERAO NEWS AGENCY, RECONA
Harris accepts VP nomination
Senator Kamala Harris formally accepted the Democratic nomination for vice president on Wednesday following a scathing speech by former President Barack Obama, who said the fate of the nation” depends entirely on the outcome of this election.”
Both Mr. Obama and Harris stressed the importance of voting, with Harris saying “we’re all in this fight together.” Harris sounded an optimistic note by highlighting her personal history and the promise of America, saying she was “so inspired by a new generation.”
“Make no mistake, the road ahead will not be not easy,” she said. “We will stumble. We may fall short. But I pledge to you that we will act boldly and deal with our challenges honestly. We will speak truths. And we will act with the same faith in you that we ask you to place in us.” She called Mr. Trump a “predator” in a speech that came after Mr. Obama issued his most forceful rebuke of his successor to date, saying Mr. Trump “hasn’t grown into the job because he can’t.”
“This president and those in power — those who benefit from keeping things the way they are — they are counting on your cynicism,” Mr. Obama said. “They know they can’t win you over with their policies. So they’re hoping to make it as hard as possible for you to vote, and to convince you that your vote doesn’t matter.
That’s how they win. That’s how they get to keep making decisions that affect your life, and the lives of the people you love. That’s how the economy will keep getting skewed to the wealthy and well-connected, how our health systems will let more people fall through the cracks. That’s how a democracy withers, until it’s no democracy at all.”
Mr. Obama and Hillary Clinton, speaking earlier in the night, both said they had hoped Mr. Trump would rise to the occasion. But they both stressed what they called his failures while in office, with Mr. Obama saying Mr. Trump has shown “no interest in treating the presidency as anything but one more reality show that he can use to get the attention he craves.”
Mali coup leaders vow to hold elections as history repeats itself
The Malian soldiers who forced President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita to resign in a coup promised early Wednesday to organize new elections after their takeover was swiftly condemned by the international community.
In a statement carried overnight on state broadcaster ORTM, the mutinous soldiers who staged Tuesday’s military coup identified themselves as the National Committee for the Salvation of the People led by Colonel Major Ismael Wagué.
“With you, standing as one, we can restore this country to its former greatness,” Wagué said, announcing that borders were closed and that a curfew was going into effect from 9 p.m. to 5 a.m
The news of Keita’s departure was met with jubilation by anti-government demonstrators in the capital, Bamako, and alarm by former colonial ruler France and other allies and foreign nations.
The U.N. Security Council scheduled a closed meeting Wednesday August 19, 2020 afternoon to discuss the unfolding situation in Mali, where the U.N. has a 15,600-strong peacekeeping mission. Keita, who was democratically elected in a 2013 landslide and re-elected five years later, still had three years left in his term.
But his popularity had plummeted, and demonstrators began taking to the streets calling for his ouster in June.
West African regional bloc ECOWAS had sent mediators to try and negotiate a unity government but those talks fell apart when it became clear that the protesters would not accept less than Keita’s resignation.
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