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UN migration compact formally adopted

December 10, 2018

UN member states have adopted the UN's controversial migration compact at a conference in Morocco. A number of countries have refused to sign the nonbinding accord, among them the US.

Sub-Saharan migrants (front) transported to an Italian Navy vessel (background) during a rescue operation in the southern Mediterranean Sea
Image: picture-alliance/dpa/G. Lami

The Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration has been formally adopted by UN member states at a conference in the Moroccan capital Marrakech.

UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres described the nonbinding accord, which was finalized in July after 18 months of talks, as a "road map to prevent suffering and chaos," rejecting claims that it would allow the UN to impose migration policies on member states.

German Chancellor Angel Merkel hailed the compact as a "milestone" for the international community and its handling of migrants. She called migration "natural " and "also good, when it's legal."

The compact states that it is designed to "foster international cooperation among all relevant actors on migration, acknowledging that no state can address migration alone, and upholds the sovereignty of states and their obligations under international law."

Opposition worldwide

While the German government under Chancellor Angela Merkel has repeatedly defended the agreement, a number of countries, including the United States, had refused to sign it, insisting that it would increase migration and make it harder for individual countries to refuse migrants. 

Critics also argue that the compact does not distinguish between economic migrants and refugees.

Hungary, Australia, Israel, Poland, Slovakia, the Czech Republic, Austria, Switzerland, Bulgaria, Latvia, Italy, Switzerland and Chile have all either refused to sign it or expressed reservations.

Opposition in Germany

In Germany, the compact sparked a row in parliament and within Merkel's own party, the CDU, with some ultra-conservative members arguing against it. Germany's far-right AfD party also opposes the compact.

Read more: Tackling migration - An African perspective

Among others, AfD Chairman Alexander Gauland complained that the government had left parliament largely in the dark about the compact in the run-up to the July announcement.

The compact aims to protect the human rights of migrants, but does not create a right to migration, as claimed by some far-right groups. 

Over the weekend, resistance to the deal led to the departure of the largest party in Belgium's coalition government.

ng/msh (AFP, Reuters)