Migration compact a missed opportunity for Australia

Catholic youth supporting refugees at a Justice for Refugees rally at South Australia’s Parliament House last year (The Southern Cross)

Australia’s failure to sign the Global Compact on Migration late last year was a missed opportunity, writes Jesuit Refugee Service’s John Haren. Source: The Southern Cross.

The Global Compact on Migration (GCM) might not have been on everyone’s summer reading list. However, it is a history-making document of immense importance in our globalised world, where the movement of people has reached unprecedented proportions. It is touted as the first ever global instrument to coordinate the governance of international migration.

In a world where one billion people are on the move (250 million international migrants and 750 million internal migrants), the compact aims at safe, orderly and regular migration.

The GCM was signed in December by 152 countries. Although non-binding, the intent of the document is to commit nation states to a set of universal objectives. These objectives relate to issues such as preventing smuggling and trafficking, providing accurate information to migrants, facilitating fair recruitment in relation to employment, reducing vulnerabilities in the migration process, managing borders well, and investing in skills development.

Sadly, Australia, which had been heavily involved in negotiations on the development of the GCM, was not a signatory to the final document. To the chagrin of other countries, it withdrew from negotiations at the eleventh hour, with Prime Minister Scott Morrison stating the agreement could "undermine Australia’s strong border protection laws and practices".

At a Jesuit Refugee Service Asian region workshop on the GCM in Cambodia in December, Australia’s tough border control stance and treatment of people seeking asylum and refugees was a source of embarrassment for Australia’s delegates. In the context of the work of other countries, Australia’s hard-line jars in a world where generosity of spirit and collaborative action is required

The workshop included representatives from the Vatican, United Nations High Commission for Refugees, the International Office of Migration, and the Cambodian Government.

Bringing together delegates from across Asia to discuss more coordinated efforts for addressing the movement of people across the region, its themes were based on Pope Francis’s mantra to welcome, to protect, to promote and to integrate.

– John Haren is president of Justice for Refugees SA.


Global compact a missed opportunity for Australia (The Southern Cross

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