Götz Schmidt-Bremme, head of the UN's Global Forum on Migration and Development, has admitted that the UN's Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration is a "controversial text," adding: "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." (Image source: United Nations)
The ongoing and bitter dispute between the EU and its Eastern European member states -- countries such as Hungary, Poland and the Czech Republic -- that have refused to take in migrants as part of the EU's quota system, might be approaching some sort of compromise. In an internal document circulated to EU interior ministers in Brussels in early December, Reuters reported, EU member states that refuse to host migrants in their countries could be exempted from doing so, if instead they show "alternative measures of solidarity." According to diplomats, these "alternative measures" are apparently EU code for "paying into the EU budget or paying toward development projects in Africa".
"The document," Reuters noted, "said the European Union would need a proper mechanism to avoid a situation in which all EU governments opted to pay their way out of any hosting responsibilities and would set an eight-year period for any arrangements".
Already in October, European Parliament President Antonio Tajani had said that EU countries who refused to host refugees could instead pay more for EU migration and development projects in Africa. "No relocation - (then) more money for Africa," Tajani said.
"We cannot force (others to take in refugees)," German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas also said in October, "but those that do not do so must possibly contribute in another way such as... in Africa. Everyone needs to take on some of the responsibility that we all have" .
The idea of paying for development projects in Africa to keep African migrants from coming to Europe is not new. It was aired by Tajani himself in July 2017. At the time, he warned that Europe is "underestimating" the scale and severity of the migration crisis and that unless urgent action is taken, "millions of Africans" will flood the continent in the next five years. He added that there would be an exodus [from Africa] "of biblical proportions that would be impossible to stop if we don't confront the problem now".
The only solution, according to Tajani, is massive investment in Africa to dissuade people from leaving in the first place:
"Population growth, climate change, desertification, wars, famine in Somalia and Sudan. These are the factors that are forcing people to leave... If we don't confront this soon, we will find ourselves with millions of people on our doorstep within five years... Today we are trying to solve a problem of a few thousand people, but we need to have a strategy for millions of people."
The EU has, in fact, been paying particularly North African governments for years to keep migrants away from the European continent, especially through the Union of the Mediterranean. The effort seems to have yielded few results in terms of stopping migration to the European continent. As recently as September 2018, the EU agreed to pay Morocco $275 million in aid "to stem illegal migration to the continent". Indicating how large an enterprise illegal migration is from Morocco alone, its government announced in September that in 2018, security authorities had thwarted more than 54,000 illegal immigration attempts, dismantled 74 criminal networks active in human trafficking and smuggling, and seized more than 1,900 human trafficking vehicles.
The prospect of encouraging millions of migrants to come to the West has persuaded increasing numbers of predominantly Western UN member states to back out of the Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration. The Compact, which frames migration as something that needs to be promoted, enabled and protected, is set to be formally adopted at the Intergovernmental Conference to Adopt the Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration in Marrakech, Morocco on December 10-11.
Currently, Australia, Austria, Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, Croatia, the Dominican Republic, Hungary, Israel, Italy, Latvia, Poland, Slovakia and Switzerland have declared that they will not be adopting the UN Migration Compact. The US had already withdrawn from negotiations on the Compact in December 2017.
"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," said Götz Schmidt-Bremme, currently ambassador for the 2017-18 co-chairmanship of the Global Forum on Migration and Development, a parallel UN initiative, in which governments discuss migration and development issues.
Louise Arbour, the UN's special representative for international migration commented, said in response to the mass withdrawal of countries from the Compact: "I think it reflects very poorly on those who participated in negotiations... it's very disappointing to see that kind of reversal so shortly after a text was agreed upon."
Arbour stressed that the states backing out will not be "harvesting the benefits" of migration:
"There are many, many countries in the world today that will need to import a part of their workforce... 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 added that, "To foster a culture of exclusion" is "entirely counterproductive". She did not state what guarantees, if any, were being planned to assure that these "foreigners" would be "well-trained".
The UN Global Compact objective 17 (paragraph 33 c) also stipulates that, "media outlets that systematically promote intolerance, xenophobia, racism and other forms of discrimination towards migrants" should not receive "public funding or material support." Meanwhile, the Compact tries to claim that it is "in full respect for the freedom of the media".
Already, it is clear what this stipulation means in practice -- even before the UN member states have formally adopted the Compact. The UN recently banned the Canadian outlet Rebel Media from attending the Conference for the Adoption of the UN Global Migration Compact. When Rebel Media asked for an explanation, they were told that the UN, "reserves the right to deny or withdraw accreditation of journalists from media organizations whose activities run counter to the principles of the Charter of the United Nations, or who abuse the privileges so extended or put the accreditation to improper use or act in a way not consistent with the principles of the Organization. The decisions are final".
This form of totalitarian behavior on the part of the UN should encourage more states that still value democracy, immediately to back out of the Compact.
Judith Bergman, a columnist, lawyer and political analyst, is a Distinguished Senior Fellow at Gatestone Institute.