UN migration pact on the rocks

The international community will meet in Marrakesh on December 10 and 11 to ratify the UN migration pact. But as the conference draws closer more and more countries are saying they won't sign it - in addition to several Eastern European countries and Austria now Italy has followed suit. The non-binding agreement is meant to help control the flow of refugees and migrants. What makes the pact so contentious?

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La Repubblica (IT) /

Italy's sad consistency

Italy's refusal to sign the migration pact fits in with the country's new refugee policy, complains La Repubblica's Brussels correspondent Andrea Bonanni:

“Matteo Salvini is being consistent when he says that Italy will not sign the United Nations document on managing the migration phenomenon. ... This is consistent because the 34-page document that the rest of the world is due to sign without Italy contradicts everything the Lega-Five Star government has done in the area of migration, including the security decree just passed in parliament. ... The government is naturally backing Salvini and thus aligned itself with the reactionary and populist international coalition led by Trump in which the Poles, the Hungarians, the Austrians and the Slovakians have already joined forces.”

Neue Zürcher Zeitung (CH) /

This will only attract more migrants

Neue Zürcher Zeitung explains why Switzerland definitely won't sign the treaty:

“For the pact not to remain a paper tiger laws would have to be passed, even if an analysis by the alliance arrives at a different conclusion. At least the corresponding demands on the part of the left and international pressure are as sure as eggs is eggs. What is clear is that the deportation of minors would have to be banned. Unclear formulations in the social sphere, on family reunification and on citizenship are through passes for further legal demands. ... That this pact will stem migration flows is unlikely. More likely is that the destination countries will become even more attractive for migrants - with unforeseeable consequences for the economy and society. Switzerland must not risk this experiment.”

Der Standard (AT) /

A test for multilateralism

The UN refugees pact being negotiated in parallel to the UN migration pact is facing a similar fate, Der Standard writes:

“Because of the vague wording there is plenty of room for interpretation - in other words everyone can interpret it to suit their own purposes. This leads to criticism, often with irrational arguments. And there are doubts about the non-binding nature of the pact, with people arguing that it could become customary law. Most, but not all experts rule this out. Austria and other states have abandoned the migration pact. With the concurrently negotiated refugee pact Vienna is still on board. With this agreement too, we'll see how far on we are with multilateralism nowadays.”

HuffPost Italia (IT) /

Ever more deserters

Italy's interior minister Matteo Salvini has also spoken out against the migration pact, saying that parliament should now decide the matter. Italy is in great company, Huffington Post Italia comments mockingly:

“The negotiations on the 'United Nations Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration' were initiated when Barack Obama was still in the White House. Last year the US under Trump became the first state to exit. And the closer the summit in Marrakesh gets, the longer the list of deserters becomes. Now Italy has joined the 'club' of countries that until yesterday weren't strategic partners. They were allies only when it came to building walls to stop migrants. But they were enemies when it came to showing solidarity with a border state like Italy that is exposed to the stream of migrants crossing the Mediterranean.”

Origo (HU) /

The case of the US shows that pact is wrong

The developments on the US-Mexico border show that deterrence is the only effective migration policy, the pro-government website Origo writes:

“The migrant caravan has attacked the US border, and it's only thanks to the authorities' resolve that no one was able to enter US territory illegally. ... The liberal left is spreading lies and saying that the people in the migrant caravan are refugees. But the migrants themselves admit that they aren't refugees, but have come in the hope that they will be able to enter the country illegally in search of a better life. The events on the border show clearly why the UN migration pact must be rejected.”

Demokracija (SI) /

Rifts grow wider once again

The weekly paper Demokracija describes the pact as potentially explosive for Europe:

“The migration pact of Marrakesh has once again divided the EU, just as the demand for a 'fair' distribution of the migrants in the member states did. Hungary, the Czech Republic, Poland, Bulgaria, Austria, Italy, Estonia, Australia, Russia, the US, Israel and now also Switzerland, which wants to wait and see how the other countries react, are against the Marrakesh pact. So it is by no means a global agreement. It is a source of new conflict within the EU.”

Eesti Päevaleht (EE) /

Debate fueled by untruths

Jaak Madisson, MP for the Estonian party Eesti Konservatiivne Rahvaerakond, spoke out vehemently against the UN migration pact. Eesti Päevaleht does some fact-checking on his claims:

“Madisson quoted the passage in which states undertake to eliminate all forms of discrimination, to condemn racist, prejudiced, and aggressive statements and acts against immigrants, and to use the legal means at their disposal to counter such comments and acts. He claims that the passage makes it the states' duty to censor the media. ... The passage in question is paragraph 17 which deals with the ethical standards of reporting on migration. What it says is that media that propagate xenophobia, racism and intolerance should receive no government funding, but that media freedom should nevertheless be fully respected. Ergo: the pact does not oblige states to use censorship.”

The Times (GB) /

The wrong emphasis

The fact that the UN migration pact doesn't send a clear message that illegal immigration won't be tolerated is a major mistake, columnist Clare Foges writes in The Times:

“When people feel that their borders mean little, hearts are hardened against genuine asylum seekers. … If we want to avoid more swings to the political extremes, we need our borders to be strong. If we are to maintain public tolerance of legal immigration, we must be uncompromising in our policing of illegal immigration. And if we are to assist genuine asylum seekers, we must not encourage young men to cross continents and seas in order to reach the gold-paved streets of the West.”

Die Welt (DE) /

A disastrous approach

Die Welt laments that the migration pact is being pushed through with almost no public debate:

“This is a disastrous approach - especially with this particular issue and in the current climate. There were plenty of good reasons for the German Bundestag to discuss the pact in depth. And we members of the press have hardly surpassed ourselves by avoiding the subject. Considering how sensitive the topic of immigration is nowadays, this kind of thing cannot afford to happen. We need a broad-based debate immediately.”

Der Standard (AT) /

Media must counter campaign of lies

The debate about the migration pact shows how significant the role of independent media has become, comments Der Standard:

“False claims like 'Borders are being abolished' or 'millions of immigrants' from Africa are on their way are being spread on far-right conspiracy websites and in media with close ties to the FPÖ and AfD. Those who 'like' pro-FPÖ and right-wing populist sites have not been informed that the migration pact is merely a declaration of intent, and that contrary to what the government says, its rejection won't 'save Austria's sovereignty'. And those who don't read such media have learned this only at a relatively late stage. The FPÖ, as the ruling party, is also expertly exploiting the interaction between social media, the tabloids and its own channels in order to spread the alleged 'truths that the mainstream media are withholding'.”

Tages-Anzeiger (CH) /

Switzerland should help find solutions

In Switzerland too, a debate about whether or not the migration pact should be signed is under way. The Tages-Anzeiger explains why it is in favour of signing the accord:

“The pact has its faults but at the end of the day there's no reason not to sign it. By remaining on the sidelines Switzerland would be aligning itself with countries like the US, Hungary or Austria, where Chancellor Sebastian Kurz is acting under pressure from his right-wing populist coalition partner the FPÖ. It is not naive to avoid being drawn into the negative spiral of a migration-policy driven race to the bottom and instead work with others to find a solution to a global problem. Switzerland is not just a country which takes a critical approach to international agreements, but above all a country where Henry Dunant founded the Red Cross.”

Irish Examiner (IE) /

Populists live up to their name

With their anti-migration policies, the governments in Austria and other European countries are only following through on their election promises, the Irish Examiner comments:

“Chancellor, Sebastian Kurz, perceives the UN’s compact on immigration as a threat to his country’s national sovereignty. What tends to be ignored in the chatter about the zeitgeist is that these populist governments and radical parties are, in a word, popular; the clue is on the tin. Like it or not, they have been elected in free and fair ballots. Mr Kurz is delivering the programme he offered voters.”

Neue Zürcher Zeitung (CH) /

A pact by aloof elites

Large sections of the electorate no longer regard migration as a natural phenomenon, and therefore the UN migration pact is just another indication of how far the elites are removed from the rest of the population, the Neue Zürcher Zeitung writes:

“The control or outright rejection of migration, the distinctions being drawn between different types of migration are causes that are supported by powerful sections of the electorate. These issues have helped political parties like the AfD in Germany, the FPÖ in Austria, the SVP in Switzerland or President Trump in the US to get into power. It is the disastrously ignorant spirit behind the migration pact that makes it politically explosive. The fact that the authors are unaware of this only confirms the much used argument about the elites being cut off from society - and strengthens these same political protest movements.”

Tageblatt (LU) /

Migration can only be tackled in a joint effort

As far as Tageblatt is concerned the migration pact is simply an acknowledgement of the situation:

“Yes, migration exists, it always has and it always will - so what can we do (knowing full well that migration issues can only be solved in a joint effort and not by a single state) so that these people enjoy minimal protection? ... The worst affected are the African and Asian countries, which accordingly need the pact most. In this sense it is also an acknowledgement of the burden that rests on these states. The refusal to sign this pact is therefore also a message to these countries: your problems are not our problem!”

Kurier (AT) /

Globalisation means global mobility

The Austrian government is avoiding all discussion about migration and hasn't answered the question of what legal migration actually means in the globalised world, Kurier complains:

“The government's decision to reject the global UN migration pact is based neither on fact nor on a clever policy but on resentment. How can you talk about globalisation in the economy and science yet not take the global migration of people from all occupations and classes into account? History has shown that the world has always benefited from migration. Unfortunately the government has not yet presented a concept for legal migration. That would be popular.”

Polityka (PL) /

Valium for voters who fear migration

Vienna is deliberately putting migration back on the table, suggests Polityka:

“ The new stances taken by Budapest and Warsaw, and Vienna's resistance, can mostly be attributed to the election calendar. These decisions are conveniently timed, coming just as the campaigns for the European Parliamentary elections, which take place at the end of May in all EU member countries, get under way. The withdrawal from the agreement enables the heads of government to put the topic of migration back at the centre of public debate and to reassure voters who oppose migration.”

La Stampa (IT) /

Holy alliance of closed doors

Italy won't have to go it alone after all, sniffs Stefano Stefanini, La Stampa's Brussels correspondent:

“Italy under Lega and M5S may well have a budget dispute with Brussels, but they will find common political ground elsewhere: at the cost of migrants, who have now become the glue holding together a new 'holy alliance,' with Vienna at its centre. ... The group of EU countries on the Danube has decided that migrants will not be allowed to pass through, and that those who have already crossed over can be booted out again with a few well-placed kicks to the rear. ... Italy is now eagerly joining this coalition of 'well-meaning' countries. Countries that have always shirked their share of responsibility for immigration by shifting it to the countries of first arrival.”