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Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 16 October 2018

UN to vote on final pact to manage refugee crisis

UN General Assembly 2018: Global Refugee compact aims to make migration safe 

An Open Arms lifeguard gives a thumbs-up to a migrant at the other end of a rubber boat in the middle of a rescue operation some 30 nautical miles off the coast of Libya in the Mediterranean Sea. AP
An Open Arms lifeguard gives a thumbs-up to a migrant at the other end of a rubber boat in the middle of a rescue operation some 30 nautical miles off the coast of Libya in the Mediterranean Sea. AP

The United Nations General Assembly is expected to vote on the final draft of the Global Compact on Refugees this week, directed at improving the international community’s response to the highest level of displacement ever seen.

More than 68 million people worldwide have been forced to leave their homes in 2018, of whom 25.4 million are refugees who fled their country and 3.1 million are asylum-seekers, according to UNHCR, the UN refugee agency.

“The High Commissioner for Refugees, Filippo Grandi, is expected to propose the refugee global compact in his 2018 report to the assembly, with the hope that it will be adopted by the end of year,” a UNHCR spokeswoman told The National.

The non-binding agreement, approved by all 193 member nations except the United States, aims to make migration safe and orderly amid issues of national sovereignty and international co-operation.

Besides refugees, the pact aims to provide protection to over 240 million people classified as migrants.

The International Organization of Migration (IOM), defines a migrant as any person who is moving or has moved across an international border or within a state regardless of legal status, causes for the move and whether the movement is voluntary or involuntary.

Washington withdrew from the negotiations on the agreement last year, saying it was not compatible with US sovereignty.

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The UNHCR spokeswoman said compact aims to take the General Assembly’s New York Declaration for Refugees and Migrants 2016 to the next level. Formal adoption is set for December in Morocco.

The 73rd session of the UN General Assembly this year is being held under the theme of “Making the United Nations Relevant to All People: Global Leadership and Shared Responsibilities for Peaceful, Equitable and Sustainable Societies.”

An exhausted Rohingya refugee woman touches the shore after crossing the Bangladesh-Myanmar border by boat through the Bay of Bengal, in Shah Porir Dwip, Bangladesh September 11, 2017. Reuters 
An exhausted Rohingya refugee woman touches the shore after crossing the Bangladesh-Myanmar border by boat through the Bay of Bengal, in Shah Porir Dwip, Bangladesh September 11, 2017. Reuters 

In July, the UN agreed on wide-ranging ways to cope with the millions of migrants moving from country to country, overcoming “mistrust” and “difficult” issues to draw up the first ever migration pact.

The official Global Compact For Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration addresses why people migrate, how to protect them, how to integrate them into new countries, means of returning them home and other issues.

It seeks to provide greater support to host countries and communities in a manner that supports refugee protection and the search for durable solutions, according to a report by UNHCR.

This includes additional financial resources, but will also encompass political support, technical assistance, capacity-building activities and efforts to address root causes and establish conditions in countries of origin that enable refugees to return safely.

“We would see better education for refugee boys and girls, as well as better access to health services for all refugees, and more livelihood opportunities,” UNHCR Assistant High Commissioner for Protection Volker Turk said.

“We would also see a different way host communities engage with refugees, hopefully moving away from the encampment policies that we still have in too many countries,” he said.

The initiative came after the migration crisis in Europe in 2015, which saw the biggest influx of refugees and migrants since the Second World War, from countries like Syria, Afghanistan, Bangladesh and Iraq.

The crisis strained resources and triggered fear of foreigners and nationalist tensions.