The UN’s recipe to make migration a fundamental human right

2018. 02. 20.

The zero draft of the United Nations’ migration pact blurs the distinction between refugees and migrants and appears to accommodate legal and illegal migration alike as “a source of prosperity, innovation and sustainable development.”

Furthermore, the document, said Prime Minister Viktor Orbán in his State of the Nation speech on Sunday, “asserts that safe and regulated immigration routes must be created in Europe. The UN asserts that it is every European’s duty to help the immigrants coming to their countries to settle and find jobs.” That’s a significant departure.

This draft of the Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration was adopted by heads of state and government of the United Nations on February 5th. It was the next step in a process that began with the New York Declaration for Refugees and Migrants, which the U.N. General Assembly adopted in September 2016. The original aim was to undertake for the first time a comprehensive negotiation among governments on the issue of global migration. However, as the discussion began to diminish the issue of security, some countries (e.g. Australia and Japan) expressed opposition, while the United States of America pulled out of talks altogether before the zero draft could be adopted.

The document “looks like it was copied from the Soros plan,” said Prime Minister Viktor Orbán, commenting on an early version of the draft. The public version of the zero draft of the compact sketches out the UN’s proposed approach to handling global migration: instead of targeting the root causes, it appears to promote migration as a fundamental human right.

Eager to “facilitate regular cross-border movements of people, based on the rule of law and in full respect of the human rights of all migrants, regardless of their migration status,” the document fails to clearly define what the ‘human rights’ of a migrant really are. Trickily, the entire compact uses the term “migrant” (which, according to the U.N., is basically anyone who changes their country regardless of the reason) instead of “refugee” and notes the difference between the two only in passing. On the other hand, national authorities are called on to “develop, reinforce and maintain necessary capacities and resources to deliver basic social services to all migrants, regardless of their migration status, and ensure safe access to these services,” including “health care, education, housing and social protection.”  In the end, the document extends to migrants many privileges normally reserved for refugees as the distinction between the two groups is practically erased. Most migrants hit the road without proper documentation, if any. No problem, according to the draft, the solution is to “[a]bolish requirements to prove citizenship or nationality at service delivery centres” and “institute an identification card for all persons.”

Victimization of illegal migrants is also addressed in the draft: “[p]rovide migrants that have become victims of trafficking in persons with protection and assistance in the context of relevant judicial proceedings, such as temporary or permanent residency and work permits, to allow the person access to justice, including redress and compensation.” Apparently disregarding the principle of safeguarding international borders, which has been enforced all over the globe, the document defies common sense.

“Illegally crossing state borders is definitely a crime and a country’s ability to protect its own borders is one of the most important criteria of statehood and an important element of sovereignty,” said Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade Péter Szijjártó.

The compact, as its supporters acknowledged, is not legally binding. However, UN documents are used by some to pave a way to other interpretations of international law, which could lead to new debates over the definition of once settled terms such as “refugee” and “migrant”. The draft’s supporters are certainly well aware of this. That’s exactly why this recipe was developed. By mixing migrants and refugees, it also potentially diminishes any distinction between illegal and legal migration and by doing so it takes migration closer to the category of fundamental human rights.

As the initial response to the zero draft showed, Hungary is not the only country that disagrees with that approach.