UN Agreement on Refugees ad Migrants
According to the UN, in 2015, 24 million people left their home countries because of war or persecution. More than 10 times that number — 244 million — were considered migrants, living somewhere other than the country of their birth. But the situation of these people is so politically sensitive that after days of intense negotiations over every word of an international agreement, the 193 nations of the world recently adopted a 22-page draft that contained virtually no concrete commitments to make their journeys better or safer. Nor does it have any force of law.
The document will serve as the basis for a meeting at the annual gathering of world leaders at the September UN General Assembly. Refugees and migrants will be the biggest issue there, but decisions on specific commitments on what countries should do to protect refugees and migrants were deferred until 2018. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon also plans to hold a meeting on the problems of refugees and migrants.
The Center for Migration Studies said that the draft “falls short of creating a new framework for the protection of refugees and migrants around the world. Instead, it reaffirms the status quo, and, in some areas, weakens current protections for these vulnerable populations.’’ The document does assert that migration can be good for the world, which is wording that migrant-sending countries wanted. It also calls for countries to take back their citizens if they travel illegally and fail to get asylum, which is what migrant-receiving countries wanted. But it says nothing about the rights of the 40 million people who are displaced in their own countries, or about those who are leaving their homes because of climate change.
“This is a document very much about the present,” said T. Alexander Aleinikoff, a senior fellow at the Migration Policy Institute in Washington, D.C. and a former official at the United Nations refugee agency. “This is not a document that prepares us for the future.”
–Excerpts from Somini Sengupta of Palacios / AP