By IISD’s SDG Knowledge Hub

18 May 2018: Governments concluded the fourth round of negotiations on the global compact on migration, with discussions addressing various scenarios of return, references to international cooperation, and employer-sponsored migration, among other issues. A second revised version of the compact is expected to be produced shortly.

Permanent Representative of Mexico Juan José Gómez Camacho and Permanent Representative of Switzerland Jürg Lauber serve as co-facilitators for the intergovernmental negotiations on the compact, which are mandated to conclude in July. The fourth round took place from 14-18 May 2018, in New York, US.

During the fourth round, Member States finished a reading of the first revised version of the text, begun in April. They discussed paragraphs 17-22, as well as implementation and follow-up and review.

Also during the week, discussions addressed seven issues of migration policy that the co-facilitators had identified as needing further clarification: International cooperation and capacity-building; Pathways for regular migration/regularization; Natural disasters, climate change and migration; Fundamental human rights and spectrum of services; Concept of firewalls; Integration/contributions of irregular migrants; and Effective and efficient cooperation on return.

On the latter issue, cooperation on return of migrants to their country of origin, Comoros for African Group, as well as Bangladesh, were among the countries saying return should be the last resort, and stressing the need for integration support when it does occur. The African Group’s call for expanded regular migration pathways, however, was addressed by Norway, which said such pathways “depend entirely on effective cooperation when it comes to return.” He said that when a government refuses to accept its national without a travel document, it is like deciding its national can stay in another country indefinitely, and this is unacceptable.

Israel said cooperation cannot be the only method for return, as every country has the right to determine who can enter and stay. Pakistan also highlighted the sovereign right to decide whom to admit and under what conditions.

Austria for a group of 27 EU States said the global compact should acknowledge the reality of forced returns, which must occur when a person refuses to return but has no right to stay legally. Pakistan said it is essential to verify the migrant’s nationality before implementing a forced return.

On children, Australia said that their best interest is a primary consideration in return and removal planning. The Holy See said it is never in children’s best interest to go through forced return. El Salvador, Paraguay, Mexico and Cuba were among the States highlighting the importance of family ties in return decisions, along with migrants’ contributions in their destination countries. Cuba added that forced return “is always traumatic.”

Canada, South Africa, Jamaica, Austria for the 27 States, Bangladesh, El Salvador, Pakistan and others stressed the need for human rights to be respected during the return process, and many expressed respect for the principle of non-refoulement, or avoiding the return of persons who would be in danger of persecution. Many expressed opposition to mass expulsions, including Canada, Austria for the group of 27 states, and El Salvador.

Turkey suggested that destination countries grant legal status to would prevent “legal limbo” during the decision-making process, and said decisions about return should be transparent. Paraguay noted that migrants must be able to appeal decisions. Jamaica said it is working with partners to develop a plan of action on voluntary returns.

Some advocated for addressing the “push factors” of migration in origin countries, with Paraguay calling to create the conditions so that migration is no longer a necessity, and Turkey saying regional initiatives could identify the factors causing irregular flows and addressing those needs.

With Jamaica, Paraguay and others having said that return is not an effective policy, in itself, to ensure orderly migration, Gómez Camacho closed the discussion observing that “nothing works in isolation.” He said returns, regularization, legal pathways and other elements are all parts of an ecosystem.

As the discussion turned to other issues of concern to Member States, the African Group made a proposal for an additional, stand-alone objective to be included in the compact to address international cooperation. The group of 27 EU states, however, was among those preferring to incorporate elements of the African Group’s proposal into the existing objective to “minimize the adverse drivers and structural factors that compel people to leave their country of origin” (Objective 2). Japan said that adding a separate objective on international cooperation would be “awkward,” given its relevance to all objectives.

On Objective 6h, which addresses recruitment processes and employer-sponsored visas, some countries (UAE, Australia, Canada, Bahrain, Austria for 27 EU states) favored alternative language to avoid implying that employer-sponsored admissions inherently jeopardize migrants’ rights.

In addition, the Secretariat provided information on the governance and functioning of the multi-partner trust fund, and delegations provided some comments on the capacity-building mechanism described in a concept note provided by the co-facilitators. Some briefly commented on the need for complementarity between the global compact on migration and the global compact on refugees, which is also under negotiation.

Kenya’s head of statistics addressed governments in his capacity as Chair of the UN Statistical Commission, saying the Commission’s bureau has been given a mandate to advise on the statistical aspects of the global compact on migration. He supported the inclusion of a call for accurate and disaggregated data on migration.

Switzerland said migrants are a force for sustainable development, and crucial in providing a country’s residents with access to medical and other social services.

The compact’s negotiation process is scheduled to include six rounds, four of which have now been completed. In the fifth round, convening from 4-8 June 2018, Member States will conduct an “objective-by-objective” reading of the text.

Lauber urged delegations to avoid entering a “tit-for-tat, horse trading mode; we are better than that.” He added that each issue must be looked at in the context of the “360 approach,” and stressed that “all of us are countries are origin, transit, destination and return.” [SDG Knowledge Hub sources] [SDG Knowledge Hub story on start of fourth negotiation round] [Programme of work for fourth round] [Proposal on capacity-building mechanism]

Source:: IISD – International Negotiations

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