18-05-2018
A Global Compact to return migrants?

newsimageDefending commitments on regularization doesn’t mean providing permits to all people with irregular status, but instead promoting the development of more objective, clear, accessible and affordable procedures and criteria. As the fourth of six rounds of negotiations begins, there is a stark lack of consensus among states regarding the fundamental meaning of the Global Compact for Migration. In its current version, the text of this unprecedented agreement would prioritize returning people to their countries of origin as the main response to irregular migration. Today, it is estimated that between 15% and 20% of migrants in the world have an irregular status – and this figure is probably far below reality. These statistics refer overwhelmingly to people who have entered the country with a regular status (as tourists, students, workers, etc.) and lost that status later. Only a minority cross the border in clandestine conditions. This situation increases the vulnerability of migrants, segregation, xenophobia and violence. How to respond to this reality in countries of destination is one of the most controversial issues in the Global Compact negotiations. It is a challenge for the countries of the Global North, but also for those of the South, where much global migration is concentrated. To promote safe, orderly and regular migration According to the New York Declaration of 2016, the Global Compact must promote safe, orderly and regular migration. An evident tension has arisen around these concepts. One perspective links them to the promotion of more dignified migration, which entails defining strategies to ensure that people who now migrate in situations of constant risk can do so safely and with regular status. This requires objectives and concrete commitments to policies such as the enhancement of regular pathways and migratory regularization, which have positive effects for migrants and the society of destination, and increase the state’s administrative capacities. Another perspective asserts the impossibility of assuming commitments regarding regularization, arguing that the Global Compact “would be incentivizing irregular migration.” Studies challenge the widespread notion that regularization prompts an increase in migration flows. This did not happen in countries where regularization was adopted as policy. In the case of Argentina, between 2004 and the first half of 2015, nearly 2 million residency applications were resolved, but the migrant population held steady at between 4.5 and 5 percent of the national population, a figure even lower than in previous decades. At the same time, since the first round of negotiations on the Compact, some state delegations have repeatedly requested that the text specify the “differences” between obligations and rights in relation to regular and irregular migrants, and migrants and refugees. Since the first round of negotiations on the Compact, some state delegations have repeatedly requested that the text specify the “differences” between obligations and rights in relation to regular and irregular migrants, and migrants and refugees. Them and Us – responses to migratory irregularity Structuring the debate this way conceals a fundamental fact when it comes to understanding what is at stake: a person’s inclusion in any of these categories depends on decisions made by the state. It is the state that must recognize the refugee status of people covered under international and regional conventions. In all other cases, the state exercises its discretionary power to grant entry permits and residency, and to extend or transform these permits in its territory, establishing criteria and procedures for that purpose. In other words, regular migration does not exist if the state does not generate the conditions for migrants to gain access to the permits required to enter and/or remain in the country. The revised first draft of the Global Compact has the merit of preserving some of the strengths of the initial draft (known as zero draft) and of presenting specific advances, such as keeping the commitment to enhance access to pathways for regular migration (Objective 5) – albeit in a somewhat ambiguous manner since it links them to “labor market needs”– and to ensure that migrants have equal access to social services that are essential to exercising their human rights (Objective 15). In broad terms, in addition to these two lines