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UN General Assembly to endorse Global Compact on Refugees today

By Cian Molloy - 17 December, 2018

The United Nations General Assembly is due to endorse a new international agreement today that will see a stronger, fairer response to large refugee movements.

The endorsement will be made on the eve of the UN’s annual International Migrants Day, December 18.

The UN Global Compact on Refugees to regulate the treatment of migrants worldwide was approved in July by all 193 member states of the United Nations, except the United States of America.

Earlier this month, representatives of 160 countries, including Ireland, signed the pact in Marrakesh, but in addition to the United States, other notable absentees included Australia, Austria, Hungary and Israel.

Undersecretaries of the Vatican’s Migrants and Refugees Section, Jesuit priest Father Michael Czerny and Scalabrinian Missionary Fr Fabio Baggio, signed the compact on behalf of the Holy See.

Fr Baggio said that the 20 action points contained in the UN document elaborate on the Pope’s four Gospel-based actions: welcome, protect, promote and integrate.

The compact was signed on behalf of Ireland by Minister of Justice and Equality, Charlie Flanagan TD. Mr Flanagan said migration was a global issue and therefore requires global solutions.

“The lessons we have learned in the European Union during the 2015 migration crisis should serve to remind us of the need to address migration in a cooperative and comprehensive manner. The UN’s Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration provides us all with a strong framework for cooperation as we together strive to address challenges,” he said.

In Germany, Chancellor Angela Merkel was criticised for signing the UN agreement, but she defended her action, saying that those who opposed it were guilty of “nationalism in its purest form”. Under Ms Merkel’s 13-year tenure as Chancellor, Germany has taken the lead in the EU for accommodating refugees, with the country taking in hundreds of thousands of those fleeing hunger, war and persecution and allowing them to build new homes in Germany.

The United States’ ambassador to the UN, Kelley Currie, said President Donald Trump’s administration has problems with the Global Compact because it undermines American sovereignty and it speaks of a need to limit the detention of asylum seekers.

Ms Currie told a UN committee hearing in November: “We will detain and prosecute those who enter US territory illegally, consistent with our domestic immigration laws and our international interests.”

UN Secretary General António Guterres noted that migration had always been part of human existence and that climate change, demographics, instability, growing inequalities and aspirations for a better life, as well as the unmet needs of labour markets, means immigration is here to stay.

“The answer is effective international cooperation in managing migration to ensure that its benefits are most widely distributed, and that the human rights of all concerned are properly protected,” Mr Guterres said.

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