US takes aim at UN migration pact ahead of conference

Days ahead of an international conference in Morocco to endorse a UN migration pact, the United States made the case Friday for opposing the deal that it shunned a year ago and which has since prompted a wave of withdrawals.

In a lengthy statement, the United States said the Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration represents “an effort by the United Nations to advance global governance at the expense of the sovereign right of states to manage their immigration systems.”

The non-binding pact agreed in July last year has become a target for right-wing and populist politicians who have denounced it as an affront to national sovereignty.

The US, which quit negotiations in December 2017, expressed concern that supporters of the agreement would use it to build “customary international law” or “soft law” in the area of migration.

The three-page US statement outlined a number of objections such as a provision in the compact stating that detention of migrants should be “a last resort,” arguing that this was inconsistent with US law.

Washington is also concerned that it “downplays the cost of immigration to destination countries” such as the “loss of employment opportunities” for low-skilled workers and “stresses on public services.”

The US statement came with the UN preparing to host a two-day conference opening on Monday in Marrakesh to endorse the pact, despite a string of defections.

Hungary withdrew last year and since then Australia, Israel, Poland, Slovakia, the Czech Republic, Austria, Switzerland, Bulgaria, Belgium Latvia, Italy and the Dominican Republic have quit the pact or expressed strong reservations.

– No closed door –
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 250 million, or just over three percent of the world’s population.

When the deal was approved in July, it was held up as an example of a UN diplomatic success achieved without the United States at a time when President Donald Trump is questioning the relevance of the world body.

UN spokesman Stephane Dujarric said it was “regrettable” that some countries had over the past week walked out but added that there was no “closed door” and that they were “always welcome to come back.”

Stressing that the pact was non-binding, he recalled that the accord was aimed at helping countries manage migration and did not pose a challenge to state authority over borders.

“It seems to defy logic to see how you can manage migration without having a global conversation,” he said.

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres will travel to Marrakesh for the conference to be attended by German Chancellor Angela Merkel, the most high-profile leader at the event.

The document will return to the UN General Assembly for approval at a session scheduled for December 19.


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