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Migration compact will benefit Australia

  • 06 August 2018


In September 2016, world leaders signed the New York Declaration for Refugees and Migrants (New York Declaration), a commitment to 'save lives, protect rights, and share responsibility on a global scale' for people on the move. One of the key manifestations of this commitment was for member states to develop a Global Compact on Refugees (GCR), and a Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration (GCM) in 2018. Australia, a successful multicultural country built on migration, must adopt the GCM.

The GCM is a historic development in the global governance of migration. It is the first universal instrument to provide common frameworks, guiding principles and approaches to deal with international migration. It has been developed over 18 months of multi-stakeholder consultations and six rounds of negotiations between UN member states with conflicting interests.

The final draft, completed on 18 July 2018, is a comprehensive document that 'sets out common understandings, shared responsibilities and unity of purpose regarding migration'. It is a call and manifesto for improving cooperation on international migration that all but two countries (the United States of America and Hungary) are likely to adopt in December 2018.

It is crucial for Australia to adopt the GCM for a number of reasons. The GCM strikes a fine balance between the prerogatives of state sovereignty and of the human rights of all migrants. National sovereignty and human rights are two of the GCM's guiding principles: 'The Global Compact reaffirms the sovereign right of states to determine their national migration policy and govern migration within their jurisdiction ... ' Similarly: 'The Global Compact is based on international human rights law ... By implementing the Global Compact, we ensure effective respect, protection and fulfilment of the human rights of all migrants ... '

Australia's key interventions across the GCM negotiations have skewed towards reinforcing the state's sovereign right to control its borders, secure return of migrants as an option for states, and determine migrants' levels of access to fundamental rights and services. Australia's positions have contrasted with the positions of other member states that have advocated for a rights based compact — including the constructive interventions of the Holy See (Vatican), which has been one of the movers and shakers of the Compact, pursuing an agenda to welcome, protect, promote and integrate migrants and refugees in accordance to the Pope's 20 points of action. If Australia decides not to adopt the GCM it will be out