The Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration (‘the Compact’) is the first intergovernmental agreement seeking to holistically address international migration.
It is a non-binding document that includes 23 objectives for countries to work towards effective human-rights responses to migration. It arose out of the New York Declaration of September 2016, where 193 member states agreed to develop a ‘collective commitment to improving cooperation on international migration’. A number of UN member states, including Australia, have played a pivotal role in negotiating and drafting the terms of the Compact.
The United Nations General Assembly will hold the Intergovernmental Conference to Adopt the Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration on 10th and 11th December 2018 in Marrakech, Morocco.
The Australian Government has indicated it will not sign the agreement despite participating in the drafting process. It will join countries including Austria, Croatia, Hungary, Israel, Poland and the United States. This decision was first announced by Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton in July 2018 and was reaffirmed by Prime Minister Scott Morrison in November 2018. The Opposition Leader, Bill Shorten has also stated he is ‘not fussed’ about the decision to not sign the agreement.
Australia’s primary objection to the Compact is that it does not align with current border security and immigration policy, particularly concerning Objective 13, that detention should be a ‘measure of last resort’.
Much of the political and media attention regarding the Compact centres on provisions detailing the need for safe, orderly and regular migration pathways. The settlement process is however also accounted for within the Compact, and thus there are settlement implications of Australia’s decision not to sign.
Alongside the Compact’s general aims to uphold the human rights and dignity of new migrants, it contains several objectives specifically pertaining to the settlement process. These include:
6. Facilitate fair and ethical recruitment and safeguard conditions that ensure decent work
15. Provide access to basic services for migrants
16. Empower migrants and societies to realize full inclusion and social cohesion
17. Eliminate all forms of discrimination and promote evidence-based public discourse to shape perceptions of migration
18. Invest in skills development and facilitate mutual recognition of skills, qualifications and competences
19. Create conditions for migrants and diasporas to fully contribute to sustainable development in all countries
22. Establish mechanisms for the portability of social security entitlements and earned benefits
Australia has a comprehensive settlement process that accounts for and integrates these objectives at many levels. As a non-binding agreement, the Compact would not provide any new or transformational shifts in existing settlement policy or procedure. Signing the Compact would however strengthen and reaffirm Australia’s commitment to upholding a comprehensive, inclusive and whole-of-society settlement process.
For this reason, SCoA is disappointed that the Government may, after playing a pivotal role in the Compact’s development, now distance itself from this important international statement. SCoA considers Australia does, and can continue to, provide a leadership role in the area of settlement and by signing the Global Compact in Morocco next month, can cement its role as a world leader in this area.
SCoA therefore joins its colleagues across the country in calling on the Government to reconsider its position on the Global Compact, noting its non-binding nature, and strongly hopes that Australia will join with the vast majority of countries in demonstrating its commitment to migration and, importantly, settlement.