Wednesday, January 16, 2019 | ePaper
258m migrants last year in world
Can a two-day conference solve the world's migration issues?
There were 258 million international migrants in the world last year, increasing almost 50 percent since 2000, according to the United Nations.
If all of the world's international migrants lived in a single country, it would be the world's fifth largest population, according to a Pew Research Center report.
The number of migrants, representing 3.4 percent of the world's population, is increasing faster than the global population, driven by economic prosperity, inequality, violence, conflict and climate change.
But the migration isn't always safe, either during transit or once the country of destination is reached.
According to Missing Migrants, an International Organization for Migration (IOM) project tracking major migration routes around the world, more than 3,300 people have "died or gone missing in the process of migrations towards an international destination" in 2018.
Even in transit countries, or country of destination, racism, discrimination and human rights violations are continuously reported.
To ease problems and issues related to migration, an intergovernmental conference, with the aim of formally adopting the Global Compact for Migration (GCM), is taking place in Marrakech, Morocco, on December 10 and 11. The GCM is a global agreement drafted after an 18-month-long consultation period between the UN and various stakeholders, including government officials from member states, migrants, human rights organisations and NGOs.
According to the UN, the GCM "compiles principles, rights and obligations from existing international law instruments regarding migration, and identifies best practices in all areas of migration".
A non-binding agreement, it aims to better manage migration at local, national, regional and global levels, including reducing the risks and vulnerabilities the migrants face at different stages of their journey.
"This puts in place a framework for the future. The GCM has 23 objectives and we think by implementing them, there will be a rule of law, less abuse faced by migrants and better management of security and border controls," Charbel Raji, a UN spokesperson, told Al Jazeera.
The pact was approved in July by all 193 member nations except the United States, which backed out last year.
Australia, the Netherlands and Austria are the only countries that have officially refused to back the GCM despite being part of the process. In addition, Bulgaria, Hungary, Czech Republic, Poland, Slovakia, Estonia and Italy have either refused to attend the conference or ruled out signing the agreement.
"It is only regrettable that member states that engaged in the process will not be part of the event," said Raji.
"Some of the reasons given are not even accurate, for example, the pact not respecting national sovereignty. Migration policies for one country are not the same for another. The states remain free to determine their policies." While UN officials are confident it won't affect the outcome of the conference and what it aimed to get out of it, rights groups question why the organisation did not address the issue earlier. "The US withdrew at an early stage and the UN was well aware of that and it still went ahead with the compact," said Youssef Ait Akdim, a board member of a Morocco-based rights group GADEM.
"We see many European countries withdrawing and stepping aside. I'm sure the UN is disappointed but the truth is that public opinion in European countries is very radicalised and the right-wing parties are very vocal."