Sunday, March 18, 2018

A new treaty for migrants?

At least 15 migrants, including five children, have died when their boat capsized as they tried to cross from Turkey. Also a new wave of people fled the northern Afrin regionas Turkish warplanes struck the main town. More than 150,000 people have left the town in the last few days.

 As the death toll keeps mounting and the humanitarian crises continue unabated, the United Nations is pinning its hopes on a proposed Global Compact on Migration (GCM), a document that covers a wide range of issues, including labour rights, access to legal assistance, open borders, consular protection, cheaper transfer of migrant remittances and the re-integration of migrants and refugees into society.

UN Spokesman Stephane Dujarric put it this way: “The Global Compact for Migration will be the first inter-governmentally negotiated agreement, prepared under the auspices of the United Nations, to cover all dimensions of international migration in a holistic and comprehensive manner.” 

Sarnata Reynolds, Global Displacement & Migration Policy Advisor at Oxfam told IPS that overall, Oxfam welcomes much of the contents of the draft to the Global Compact on Migration. “It consistently recognizes that all migrants have human rights, including the right to be treated with dignity and respects their right to access education, health care, due process and justice before the law.” At the same time, she said, the zero draft is written from the perspective of states rather than the experience of rights holders. While this state-led process requires that political leaders ultimately agree to the contents of the GCM, implementation won’t be possible or credible if the experiences of migrants, their families and the communities who work alongside them are not fully integrated. As the negotiations unfold, Oxfam urges states to commit to increasing the safe passage of migrants by providing sufficient work opportunities, education, family reunification and protection visas that meet the needs of families and industry, and lifesaving assistance when migrants are caught in crisis. In particular, the experience of women as migrants themselves and oftentimes as the primary caretaker of migrant families, must be integrated into all programs and approaches, to ensure that their ability to exercise agency and take up fair and safe employment is promoted. As another priority, Oxfam is calling for the legal recognition and protection of migrants forced across borders due to disasters and/or climate change.
Matthew Reading-Smith, Senior Communication Officer at CIVICUS, a global civil society alliance told IPS there are over a quarter billion migrants and refugees in the world. Over 5,000 died last year on their dangerous journeys. He said that the Global Compact is meant to protect the rights of those displaced and help address the root economic, environmental and social drivers that are compelling people to leave their communities and countries. " But we know that natural disasters are the number one cause of internal and international displacement. With rising sea levels, desertification and extreme weather events, climate action must be a part of any meaningful agreement."

Emele Duituturaga, Executive Director of the Pacific Islands Association of Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs), said “climate induced displacement is upon us. Coastal communities are being evacuated and relocated the world over. In sea locked countries of the Pacific Ocean, disappearance of our island homes is imminent”, he warned. To protect the growing number of climate migrants, a necessary starting place for the compact is to reaffirm the importance of the Paris Climate Change Agreement and accelerate efforts to limit global average temperature rise to 1.5°C, instead of the more conservative and ambiguous target to keep the world “well below” 2°C above pre-industrial levels. Missing just one of these targets will lead to millions of people being displaced, said Duituturaga.
Kate Gough, a researcher at the Washington-based Center for Global Development (CGD) who specializes on migration issues, told IPS  immense benefits migration can bring can be amplified: migrants can significantly and positively contribute to the countries they move to and the countries they move from, but maximizing the positive impacts that are possible requires policies that enable migrants’ contributions rather than stifle them.

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