12 June 2018
Delegates Continue Migration Compact Negotiations, Hear Plans for UN Migration Network
UN Photo/John Isaac
story highlights

During the fifth round of negotiations of the Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration, delegates exchanged views on the second revised draft of the compact.

UN Deputy Secretary‑General Amina Mohammed informed Member States of plans for a UN Migration Network to succeed the Global Migration Group.

IOM will serve as its coordinator and secretariat.

8 June 2018: During the fifth round of negotiations of the Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration, delegates discussed the second revised draft of the compact. Member States’ opinions diverged with regard to the principle of non-refoulement, among other issues, and some remarked that the text “blurs lines” between refugees and migrants.

The fifth of six scheduled rounds of intergovernmental negotiations on the migration compact took place in New York, US, from 4-8 June 2018, under the co-facilitation of Jürg Lauber, Permanent Representative of Switzerland, and Juan José Gómez Camacho, Permanent Representative of Mexico. Delegates exchanged views on, inter alia: saving lives and preventing migrant deaths; preventing smuggling of migrants; preventing and combatting trafficking in persons in the context of international migration; managing borders in an integrated, secure and coordinated manner; strengthening certainty and predictability in migration procedures; and immigration detention as a measure of last resort.

The principle of non-refoulement figured among major points of contention. Liechtenstein noted that this principle is important in the context of international human rights law, and asked for its retention in the text. New Zealand, Chile, El Salvador, Guatemala and Indonesia also supported its inclusion, with Indonesia saying it is relevant for irregular migration. Bahrain, China and India opposed the insertion of non-refoulement, noting that it only applies to refugees. Lauber commented that non-refoulement is not limited to the refugee convention. He said there needs to be both separation between the global compact on migration and the one on refugees, but also compatibility, and in some instances “we don’t know yet in which of these categories people fall into.”

Governments expressed concerns on a paragraph that calls for working towards policies and practices that treat the circumstances of irregular entry as an administrative offense, rather than as a criminal offense. Many delegations, including Austria for 27 EU States, Japan, South Africa, the Russian Federation, Israel and Pakistan, opposed its inclusion in the compact, noting that this subject should be under the decision of each country, and the sovereign right of States should be respected. Uruguay, El Salvador and Paraguay favored retaining the paragraph.

The 2030 Agenda calls for eradicating forced labor and ending “modern slavery and human trafficking” (SDG target 8.7).

On preventing and combatting trafficking in persons in the context of international migration, Comoros for the African Group, among others, questioned the reference to “modern slavery,” saying it does not have a commonly agreed definition. She proposed replacing it with “contemporary forms of slavery” or “slavery.” Liechtenstein clarified that the term “modern slavery” is derived from the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, which calls for eradicating “forced labour” and ending “modern slavery and human trafficking” (SDG target 8.7).

On human rights, South Africa, the Holy See, Pakistan and the Russian Federation, among others, asked to delete a paragraph on taking into account the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights’ (OHCHR) Recommended Principles and Guidelines on Human Rights at International Borders, saying it is not an internationally agreed document.

On the title of objective 12 of the compact, ‘Strengthen certainty and predictability in migration procedures for appropriate determination and referral,’ the Holy See preferred “assessment” instead of “determination,” while Switzerland said it preferred “screening and referral,” as expressed in the UN High Commissioner for Refugees’ (UNHCR) 10-Point Plan of Action on Refugee Protection and Mixed Migration. A few countries noted that the language in this objective alludes to refugee status, such as the right to seek asylum. Switzerland remarked that this right is part of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and is relevant to migrants.

In an objective on the use of immigration detention as a measure of last resort, many, such as the African Group, Brazil, the Philippines, Panama, Uruguay, Argentina and Paraguay, stressed the need to end the practice of child detention.

UN Deputy Secretary‑General Amina Mohammed joined the negotiation meeting on 7 June to address delegations. She said she welcomes the draft’s emphasis on: the “positive contribution that millions of migrants make in our societies”; the critical importance of international cooperation and capacity‑building; the need for a gender‑responsive approach to migration cooperation; and the “deep interconnections” between the compact and the 2030 Agenda.

Regarding the UN’s role in the compact’s implementation, Mohammed announced that the UN Secretary‑General has decided to establish a UN Migration Network. This will succeed the existing Global Migration Group. She said the new Network will serve to: bring clarity regarding the greater responsibilities to be assumed by the International Organization for Migration (IOM); ensure integrated support to any capacity‑building mechanisms that will be established; and link the UN system’s support with measures put in place for follow‑up and review. IOM will serve as the coordinator and secretariat of the Network, she said.

Mohammed also informed Member States that the Network’s detailed methods of work will be established in a framing conference with participants from the UN system. The conference will take place in late 2018, convened by the UN Secretary-General’s Special Representative for International Migration, with IOM support.

Finally, Mohammed asked UN Member States and others to resist referring to the “UN system and IOM,” adding that IOM is part of the UN system, and is already “firmly integrated” in many UN coordination and funding mechanisms from global to country levels. She noted that the UN Secretary‑General will continue to explore the option of IOM becoming a UN specialized agency.

The next round of negotiations is scheduled to convene from 9-13 July 2018, in New York, US. It is expected to be the last round of negotiations before the adoption of the global compact at an intergovernmental conference convening from 10-11 December 2018, in Morocco. [SDG Knowledge Hub story on opening of fifth round] [SDG Knowledge Hub story on compact draft ‘Rev 2’] [Draft Rev 2] [Co-facilitators’ letter on fifth round] [Compact negotiations website] [UN Deputy Secretary-General’s remarks] [All SDG Knowledge Hub coverage of migration compact process]

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