Whether one views migration, in and of itself, as positive or negative, is irrelevant to the fact that it remains a global phenomenon that requires a nuanced, multilayered, global approach to analyzing (causes and effects) and moderating (so as to discourage illegal, and too often unsafe, border crossings, that have thus far caused devastating loss and misery to all affected).
As such, the Global Compact for Migration (GCM), endorsed in Marrakesh this past Monday, December 10, 2018, which coincidentally and symbolically was on the 70th anniversary of the Declaration of Human Rights, ought to be considered a significant global achievement that aims to open up channels for safe, orderly and regular migration.
The GCM, which set out to cover every dimension of global migration in a holistic, negotiated, and comprehensive manner, has paved the way for an effective, myth-busting, and unbiased migration governance system, anchored in genuine partnership and cooperation between countries of origin, transit, and destination.
The GCM outcome document, first published in July 2018, outlined a series of mutually reinforcing pledges towards a global commitment to safe, orderly and regular migration. These pledges are grouped into 23 objectives:
1. Collect and utilize accurate and disaggregated data as a basis for evidence-based policies
2. Minimize the adverse drivers and structural factors that compel people to leave their country of origin
3. Provide accurate and timely information at all stages of migration
4. Ensure that all migrants have proof of legal identity and adequate documentation
5. Enhance availability and flexibility of pathways for regular migration
6. Facilitate fair and ethical recruitment and safeguard conditions that ensure decent work
7. Address and reduce vulnerabilities in migration
8. Save lives and establish coordinated international efforts on missing migrants
9. Strengthen the transnational response to smuggling of migrants
10.Prevent, combat and eradicate trafficking in persons in the context of international migration
11. Manage borders in an integrated, secure and coordinated manner
12. Strengthen certainty and predictability in migration procedures for appropriate screening, assessment and referral
13.Use migration detention only as a measure of last resort and work towards alternatives
14. Enhance consular protection, assistance and cooperation throughout the migration cycle
15. Provide access to basic services for migrants
16. Empower migrants and societies to realize full inclusion and social cohesion
17.Eliminate all forms of discrimination and promote evidence-based public discourse to shape perceptions of migration
18. Invest in skills development and facilitate mutual recognition of skills, qualifications and competences
19. Create conditions for migrants and diasporas to fully contribute to sustainable development in all countries
20. Promote faster, safer and cheaper transfer of remittances and foster financial inclusion of migrants
21. Cooperate in facilitating safe and dignified return and readmission, as well as sustainable reintegration
22. Establish mechanisms for the portability of social security entitlements and earned benefits
23. Strengthen international cooperation and global partnerships for safe, orderly and regular migration
These objectives are clustered within six thematic areas:
1. human rights of migrants;
2. drivers of migration;
3. international cooperation and governance;
4. contributions of migrants and diaspora;
5. smuggling and trafficking;
6. and irregular migration and regular pathways
What is perhaps most noteworthy about this Global Compact for Migration is that the African continent, through a Common African Position (CAP) negotiated at the African Union and unanimously endorsed in January 2018, is said to have taken center stage in the 18 months long process that led to the GCM outcome document mentioned above.
Eritrea has actively participated [in] the process that led to the GCM. In a series of statements on Twitter during the conference in Marrakesh as well as after a side event it co-hosted in collaboration with the World Bank’s Global Knowledge Partnership on Migration and Development (GKNOMAD), the Permanent Mission of Eritrea to the United Nations in New York said that “a well-managed migration immensely contributes to worldwide socio-economic progress.” The Eritrea at the UN office further outlined Eritrea’s strong support for the Global Compact for Migration and the country’s position, arguing that if managed properly and if given due support on all fronts, including the removal of “administrative and legal impediments,” the GCM has the potential of significantly reducing, if not completely stopping, the negative economic, social and political stressors on all those involved and quite positively contributing to progress and growth and hence global security.
Whether one chooses to permanently or temporarily emigrate to one’s destination, the Global Compact’s ultimate goal seems to be the migrant’s safety, rights and overall wellbeing.
Viewed through this lens, the GCM provides a significant global pathway that enhances responsibility sharing between States involved in or affected by migratory patterns, striking an important, complementary balance between national sovereignty on the one hand and the human rights of migrants on the other. It “reaffirms the sovereign right of states to determine their national migration policy and govern migration within their jurisdiction…” while ensuring the “…effective respect, protection and fulfilment of the human rights of all migrants…”.
Furthermore, the GCM calls for a shared and factual, evidence-based, public discourse on migration that would help policymakers move away from biased narratives and generate humane, achievable and holistic solutions to a global phenomenon that is much wider and much more complex than is currently understood.
What may not have been broached at the current conference of the GCM is the whole issue of organized human trafficking and the instrumentalization of migration for sinister political ends. Eritrea has a somber story to tell in this regard. Indeed, the Government has repeatedly requested, since 2005, a comprehensive UN enquiry to fully examine the multi-layered tentacles of organized human trafficking both in order to stem the scourge as well as to bring the culprits to justice. The GCM’s focus appears to have been confined to regular migration although the latter case will need to be fully addressed at some point in time in the future.