I am writing to update the House on the UK’s endorsement of the global compact for safe, orderly and regular migration, which we will announce at the intergovernmental launch event in Marrakesh on 10 December.
Well-managed migration is in everyone’s interests. But uncontrolled migration erodes public confidence, damages economies, and places people on the move in situations of great vulnerability. The UK is taking significant steps, including with our ODA-funded programming, to tackle uncontrolled migration by:
Addressing the root causes of migration, through our targeted assistance for livelihoods, healthcare, education and economic development;
Tackling modern slavery and organised immigration crime;
Supporting enhanced border management overseas;
Providing critical humanitarian support and protection for vulnerable migrants, as well as offering voluntary return and vital reintegration support to those wishing to return home; and
Supporting refugees to stay in a first safe country through our humanitarian and development
work in Africa, the Middle East and Asia.
The global compact for migration embeds these efforts within the international system and enhances co-operation between states whilst reaffirming the sovereign right of all countries to control their own borders. The compact is not legally binding. It creates a framework to allow countries to work together to make global migration more beneficial for everyone.
UK endorsement of the global compact for migration
On 10 December, the UK will endorse the global compact for migration (GCM) at the intergovernmental launch event in Marrakesh.
The migration compact marks a major milestone for the international community. No country can address the challenges presented by illegal migration on its own and an agreement on this scale, with the overwhelming support of the international community including endorsements from 165 other UN member states including France, Germany, Canada and Japan, highlights the need for global co-operation.
The compact will not, and is not intended to, affect our continued ability to determine and implement our own migration policy in our national interest. The compact will not in any way create legal obligations for states, nor does it seek to establish international customary law or further interpret existing treaties or national obligations. It protects every country’s right to determine its own immigration policies, including in areas such as asylum, border controls and returns of illegal migrants. The GCM emphasises that migrants are entitled to the same universal human rights as any human being, and does not create any new “rights” for migrants. As a result, the UK does not interpret the compact as being in conflict with its current domestic policies. At the same time, the compact will help us take important steps to keep migrants around the world safe and to protect the most vulnerable, domestically and overseas, who can become victims of modern slavery. The compact also sets out actions to harness the economic benefits of safer, regular migration, for example by reducing the costs of remittances that migrants send home.
I believe the end result serves the UK’s national interest. The Prime Minister set out the UK’s priorities for global migration reform in 2016 and, taken together, the refugee compact and the migration compact help embed these priorities into global migration governance. In practice, that means a refugee compact that helps ensure refugees can claim asylum in the first safe country they reach. And a migration compact which makes a clear distinction between refugees and migrants, and which sets out a well-managed global migration system confirming the sovereign right of States to control their borders and the clear responsibility of states to accept the return of their nationals who no longer have the right to remain elsewhere.
It also includes proposals which will help the UK make a strong contribution to the delivery of the global sustainable development goals, including through our ODA-funded programming. This includes those relating to orderly, safe, regular and responsible migration and mobility of people; and those intended to eradicate forced labour, modern slavery and human trafficking, and child labour.
After the political launch in Marrakesh, the document will need to be adopted by the UN General Assembly in New York. As part of this process, the UK will issue an explanation of position, alongside likeminded EU member states which will publicly capture the UK’s interpretation of the text.