5 December 2018

The UN Migration Pact: States have sovereignty in management of their borders

On the occasion of the UN Conference to be held in Marrakech on 10 and 11 December, France will be signing the United Nations “Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration”. A lot of false information on this issue is circulating on social networks.

What exactly is the UN Migration Pact?

  • It is a non-binding document: a compilation of best practices drawn up at the request of European countries following the 2015 crisis.
  • It aims to encourage cooperation between States in the field of migration so that management of the question is not carried out in piecemeal fashion.

Does the Pact create new obligations?

  • No, the Pact is not legally binding, as is explained in its Preamble (“This Global Compact presents a non-legally binding, cooperative framework”). It is a compilation of best practices from which States are encouraged to draw inspiration, but nothing in the Pact obliges them to do so.
  • The Pact does not recommend any goals with regard to increases in numbers of migrants.

Does the Pact create a "right to migration"?

No. The Pact emphasises that States have the right to decide whom they admit to their territory. This is fully in line with the principle of State sovereignty, which is reasserted in the text.

Does the Pact call State sovereignty into question as far as migration policy is concerned?

Absolutely not. On the contrary, State sovereignty with regard to migration policy is reasserted in the Preamble and even referred to as the text’s “guiding principle”.

Does the Global Compact on migrations risk encouraging irregular migration?

No, on the contrary. The fight against irregular migration is one of the document’s key themes. States are encouraged to cooperate over border control, and the Pact recommends that migrants should be provided with more information on risks connected with irregular migration in order to discourage it. It also emphasises that countries of origin are obliged to readmit their nationals.

Does the Pact recommend regularisation of irregular migrants?

No. The document covers the question of regularisation of irregular migrants, but it is seen as one possible public policy instrument among others: the Pact recommends using it in limited numbers of specific cases, when examination of an individual situation justifies it. Nowhere does the Pact recommend mass regularisation as a migration policy tool.

Does the Pact create new rights for migrants?

No, the Global Compact on migration does not create any new rights for migrants. It does, however, seek to consolidate protection of existing rights, guaranteed in documents that are not always correctly applied, starting with the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

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