With an overwhelming majority of its 193 members in favour of adopting a major, though non-binding, resolution aimed at addressing the issue of illegal migration, the UN General Assembly endorsed a sweeping accord that aims to ensure safe passage for those seeking asylum in countries where they have social benefits of legal status.
The new “Global Compact for Migration” is the first international document dealing directly with the highly contentious issue of the free movement of individuals between countries where they have not gone through the traditional channels to legalise their status.
The UN accord was supported by a 152 of the general assembly’s members, with 12 abstaining, a number that was significantly lower than the 164 countries that approved a draft agreement at a conference in the Moroccan city of Marrakesh earlier this month.
The compact is part of an effort to give illegal migrants who are seeking economic opportunities in third countries the right to remain in the states where they register themselves, while also granting the authorities the right to crack down on human smuggling, which has become a booming worldwide industry since the advent of the 2015 migrant crisis in Europe.
“It (the agreement) calls for greater solidarity with migrants in situations of appalling vulnerability and abuse,” UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said, adding, “And it highlights the imperative of devising more legal pathways for migration, which would also help to crack down on trafficking and exploitation.”
Stiff opposition to the deal was led the United States, Hungary, Israel, the Czech Republic, and Poland, who argue that the compact is attempting to “globalise” the question of how migration is carried out and is stripping the legal sovereignty of individual countries to determine their own immigration policies in favour of a new “unenforceable” and “impractical” set of international laws.
According to a recent UN estimate, there are over 250 million migrants around the World or roughly 3.4% of the global population.