By Owei Lakemfa
Five thousand, five hundred angry marchers tramped through the streets of Brussels on Sunday protesting against the United Nations Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration. Their claims include that the Pact would encourage migration and criminality. They also claim that the Pact blurs the distinction between legal and illegal migration. For them, it is time Belgium shuts its borders against migration of any kind.
The protests are targeted at the estimated 258 million migrants worldwide which include 68 million refugees and 3 million asylum seekers. There was a counter protest by about 1,000 people who believe the larger group are fascists and racists who refuse to recognize the fact that migration is natural to humanity. They are quite right because all of us in Africa have a history of migration, while the rest of humanity; European, Asian, Latino, American, migrated from Africa some 70,000 years ago. This simply means that the entire humanity lived millions of years in Africa before they migrated.
But this basic lesson and the unstop-ability of migration is lost to the anti-migration protesters and many leaders in Europe who have jumped on the bandwagon to scuttle what is considered a common response to the migration challenge. Only the United Sates had opted out of the UN talks on migration. In July 2018, 193 members of the UN General Assembly okayed the text of the Pact. All that remained was a formal meeting to sign it. This held in Marrakesh, Morocco on December 11, but surprisingly, only 164 countries signed. That means 29 countries who five months ago had agreed to the Pact, have not signed. A number of the countries who have expressed reservations or decided to opt out, are European, they include Italy, Poland, Slovakia, Czech, Austria, Hungary and Croatia.
The protests against the Pact is surprising because in reality, it is a bland document which in any case, is NOT binding. It is essentially an incorporation of existing UN and international agreements like the Universal Declaration of Human rights, the International Labour Organisation (ILO) Conventions and the Social Development Goals. Also, it is surprising that many European countries are turning their backs because it is essentially, an European Union-driven Pact.
Europe, the Defender of human rights and equality had been stunned by the arrival of about one million migrants on its shores in 2015. While some European countries clearly rejected the migrants, others thought there was no way these migrants can be pushed back into the seas; into watery graves. So immediate plans were made to distribute some of the refugees while suggesting that many can be helped to return to the countries they had fled.
The EU also had other plans to stop further migrations, the main one was a pact with Turkey through which most of the Syrian refugees came.
On March 18, 2016, it signed an agreement with Turkey to take back most of the Syrian refugees from Europe and warehouse them. That way, Europe will not be accused of human rights violations, at least not on its soil. The irresistible carrots it dangled before Turkey included a 6 billion Euro payment ostensibly to cater for the Syrian refugees, an accelerated EU membership for Turkey and provision of EU visas for Turkish citizens. The result is that the refugees in Turkey increased from 2,900,000 to 3,500,000 while the number of refugees who entered Greece (Europe) from Turkey fell by 97 percent within two years.
Today, while Turkey cries that it was short changed by the Europeans including the payment of only 1.8 billion Euros, Europe has moved to the next level of seeing through an ineffectual UN Pact that gives the impression that it cares for refugees.
Actually, the EU deal with Turkey was a fine tuning of the inhuman deal between Australia a nation of migrants, and Papua New Guinea. In what was tagged the ‘Pacific Solution’ to the Non-White migrants challenge, Australia paid poor Papua to use a naval facility on its Manus Island as a vast detention camp for migrants arriving in Australian waters without visas. The detention arrangement was euphemistically called ‘Transfield Services’ By January 2014, the Australian Government was detaining 1,353 refugees on that island. By the time the out sourced detention centre was shut down by international outrage on October 31, 2017, some of the refugees had been in illegal detention for five years.
A main failure of the UN Pact is its non-address of the origins of the refugee crises. For instance, Syria accounts for 6.3 million of world refugees and the cause is the Western and Arab Gulf powers attempt to overthrow the Assad administration and install a pliant Sunni leadership. The solution is to end the Syrian War and carry out national reconciliation. Afghanistan has 2.6 million refugees. The cause is the NATO War in that country. The solution is to allow an Afghan-Taliban peace process leading to a government of national unity and reconciliation. The senseless fratricidal war in South Sudan accounts for 2.4 million refugees. The peace process is on. But a decisive stop must be put to the conflict. There is also the need to stop the Yemeni War and genocide perpetuated by the Saudi Coalition.
Most other refugee points like the Mediterranean Sea crossings into Europe, are economic. The solution is to make the world a better place for all, not one owned by one percent of human population.
The UN Pact that gives receiving countries the discretion on migration and makes all their national laws superior in determining refugee status while urging them to “Use migration detention only as a measure of last resort…” does not go far enough.
Since migration is natural to humanity, the strategy of the West is not to oppose it, but ensure it allows only migration that is beneficial to it; not migrant labour, but migrant brains. This is what is called Brain Drain; draining the brains of other countries. So, it seeks to sift the best brains from any part of the world and leave the shaft. It is very much like the Atlantic Slave Trade when the European slave traders transported the most active portion of the African population, leaving us with the old, the sick and the too young to survive.
Essentially, the UN Pact, is a palliative measure to give the developed countries a breathing space to think and strategize on the migrants challenge while appearing to be concerned about the human rights of migrants. But, the migrants are coming; like the Latin American Caravan at the US borders, they are unstoppable. The only way they can be stopped is to discourage or resolve violent conflicts and ensure a shared globalization based on a shared humanity and prosperity.
Owei Lakemfa, a celebrated columnist and writer, is a former General Secretary of the Nigerian Labour Congress, (NLC).