Treating migration as a security problem violates human rights

During the final round of negotiations on the Global Compact for Migration, 40 organizations urged UN member states to ensure that the accord fully incorporate a rights-based approach. The last draft includes changes that reinforce a focus on control and security. If this is validated, countries will have wasted a historic opportunity to fuel a paradigm shift.

Joint statement before the UN
July 10, 2018

Mr. Co-Facilitators, Member States,

I am making this statement on behalf of 40 civil society organizations. After closely accompanying these six months of negotiation of the Global Compact on Migration, the last circulated version of the agreement provokes us strong questionings and leaves us in a state of alert.

At this final moment of the negotiations, we invite you all to make a full reading of the draft from the perspective of the political and ethical reasons that brought us here and the responsibilities that convoke us all.

Some events of the last month are key for this final revision. For example, in the last days, the world was shocked when it became aware of the detention policy of children and the separation of migrant and asylum seeker families applied by the United States. It also accompanied in anguish the destiny of the vessels with more than 200 migrants on board in the Mediterranean that were not allowed to reach a port. Unfortunately, we know that this understanding of migration is not new and is not limited to these regions of the world.  But it does reflect the continuity of restrictive migration policies and some of its most dramatic consequences, and provoke us once again and with great strength the question: Is this the Compact going to be truly able to promote alternative responses?

In the last months, we have advanced substantively and have achieved the important consensus that there should be a cross-cutting rights perspective in the agreement. On the other hand, all throughout the negotiation elements that incentivize and consolidate a control and security perspective have remained. Between the prior draft and this last one, a series of changes appear not to reflect the discussions in the room and reinforce this perspective.

1. Even though State commit to ‘save lives’, this objective will hardly be achieved due to the persistence and strengthening of the idea of reducing and preventing irregular migration next to the promotion of security. This logic, present in the section on shared responsibilities, in objective 2 on the causes of migration and in objective 11 on borders, opens space for agreements and policies that strengthen migration control through the armed forces or security agencies, that externalize borders and that establish return mechanisms as the main answer to irregular migration, with severe impacts on the right to life, to safety, to personal integrity and the right to family life of migrant persons.

2. This concern is strengthened as the text eliminated any mention of no criminalization of migration, which was present in objective 9.e of Rev 2. Also, language was introduced to objective 11.f that legitimized the imposition of sanctions of any kind, even criminal, to irregular migration. Under this same view, the recognition and acceptance in objective 13 of detention as an instrument of migration policy is concerning, without any commitment to put an end to this baseless practice from a rights perspective.

3. On the other hand, the risks that a security view of migration persist are also strengthened as the principle of non refoulement was deleted from objectives 8 and 21. Added to the above, objective 21.e an action that defined criteria to control expulsions, became one with a vague notion of a “dignified return” of migrants “that do not have the legal right to remain”, as if this determination should not be evaluated from a perspective of the rights at stake, that could weigh in favor of remaining in the country.

4. Additionally, the wording of the new action 7.i weakens the idea that as a public policy, States stablish wide and transparent regularization procedures for all persons, with examples of objective criteria. The wording of this action needs to be revised to be a truly alternative proposal to the logic of migration control. It is also necessary to standardize the references to the right to family unity and family life throughout the text in terms of regular pathways, regularization and criteria against expulsions.

5. Finally, the cross-cutting rights view present in the Compact is weakened with the absence of the active participation of human rights mechanisms in its follow up. Due to the inter-governmental nature of this initiative, it is important to consolidate as well as the UN Human Rights Council, with its experience on topics related to international migration, as one of the fora that should contribute according to paragraph 52.

Mr. Co-Facilitators and Member States, it is imperative to solve these inconsistencies. The adoption of the document, as it is in the current draft would entail validating the current migration policy paradigm and we cannot lose the historic opportunity to show the world that we are committed with another perspective on migration.

Thank you very much.

Acción Social Menonita (CASM) de Honduras
Alianza Américas
Asociación Coordinadora Comunitaria de Servicios para la Salud -ACCSS-, Guatemala
Asociación RUMIÑAHUI de España la Red de Ecuatorianos en EUROPA
Bloque Latinoamericano
Caritas Arquidiocesana de São Paulo
Casa del Migrante de Saltillo
Casa Monarca. Ayuda Humanitaria al Migrante
Centro de Estudios Legales y Sociales (CELS- Argentina)
Clínica Jurídica de Migrantes y Refugiados de la Universidad Diego Portales
Colectivo Por Una Migración Sin Fronteras
Comisión Argentina para Refugiados y Migrantes (CAREF)
Conectas Direitos Humanos
Confederação Sindical de Trabalhadores/as das Américas – CSA
CTA de los Trabajadores de la Argentina
Equipo de Estudios Comunitarios y Acción Psicosocial – ECAP
FM4 Paso Libre
FONAMIH – Foro Nacional para la Migración en Honduras
Iniciativa cuidada para la promoción de la cultura del diálogo
Instituto de Estudios y Divulgación sobre Migración (INEDIM)
Instituto para las Mujeres en la Migración – Imumi
Italian General Confederation of Labour (CGIL)
Migrant Forum in Asia (MFA)
Misión Scalabriniana Ecuador
Misioneros Scalabrinianos Guatemala
National Network for Immigrant and Refugee Rights
Organismo Cristiano de Desarrollo Integral de Honduras (OCDIH)
Congregation of Our Lady of Charity of the Good Shepherd
Oxfam International
Pacific Focal Point, Pacific Islands Association of Non-Government Organizations (PIANGO)
Proyecto de Derechos Económicos, Sociales y Culturales-ProDESC
Red de Mujeres del Bajío AC, Guanajuato, México
Red Internacional de Migración y Desarrollo
Red Jesuitas con Migrantes en América Latina y el Caribe (RJM-LAC)
Rede Sul-Americana para as Migrações Ambientais – RESAMA
Servicio Jesuita a Migrantes de Chile
Servicio Jesuita a Refugiados en América Latina (JRS-LAC)
Sin Fronteras IAP
Solidarity Center
VIVAT International