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The Global Compact for Migration

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The Global Compact for Safe, Orderly, and Regular Migration (GCM) set to be adopted in Marrakesh on 10-11 December, provides an important opportunity to address the vulnerabilities and reassert the human rights of migrants worldwide.

Given the intrinsic links between disasters and forced displacement, the European Commission Directorate-General for European Civil Protection and Humanitarian Aid Operations (ECHO) dedicated a session during its Annual Partners Conference on 19-20 November to discuss the impact that the GCM and the Global Compact on Refugees (GCR) will have on humanitarian aid.

The European Commission's DG ECHO dedicated a session to GCM and GCR at its Annual Partners Conference, Brussels, 19 November 2018 ©  Red Cross EU Office

The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) network of National Societies has significant experience working with governments, host populations and migrants to meet the humanitarian needs related to migration in countries of origin, transit and destination. As such, the Red Cross Red Crescent has engaged throughout the development of the GCM, advocating for the safety and dignity of all migrants to be at the centre of this new global agreement.

IFRC Global Migration and Displacement Lead, Tiziana Bonzon, joined experts from the International Organization for Migration (IOM), the United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR) and the Danish Refugee Council (DRC) at the Partners’ Conference to share reflections on what the GCM means for humanitarian actors.

"Displacement and humanitarian aid are two sides of the same coin; when people are struck by a disaster – whether it be natural or manmade – the first things they do is to flee, to move, to save their lives and protect themselves", underlined ECHO Director for Europe, Eastern Neighbourhood and Middle East, Jean-Louis de Brouwer in his introduction. Indeed, ECHO and the EU institutions have been closely associated with the development, negotiation, and finalisation of the GCM. In collaboration with humanitarian partners, ECHO also expects to be involved in its implementation.

IFRC Global Migration and Displacement Lead, Tiziana Bonzon, shared reflections on what the GCM means for humanitarian actors, Brussels, 19 November 2018 ©  Red Cross EU Office

As the first intergovernmentally negotiated agreement covering all aspects of migration in a holistic manner, the GCM represents a significant achievement, particularly in the context of current polarised narratives on migration. Critically, the document underlines the protection and safety of all migrants, regardless of their migration status, at all stages of their journeys. It also stresses the need to ensure their access to services, as well as protecting the humanitarian space by rejecting criminalisation of principled humanitarian action.

“The GCM expresses a unity of purpose” underlined Phyllis Coven, IOM Policy and Liaison Advisor for the Global Compacts. “It emphasises the need to share responsibility for migration among all states”. While highlighting that it was a state-led process with states as key actors, Ms Coven stressed the important role of humanitarian actors in terms of establishing the evidence base, urging and supporting governments to do the right thing, and in communicating with their constituencies.

As migration management measures have become more coercive in recent years, Red Cross and Red Crescent staff and volunteers have witnessed a significant increase in protection concerns and humanitarian consequences for migrants. “It is important to highlight that migrants are not vulnerable because they are migrants”, Ms Bonzon pointed out. “Vulnerability and precariousness are often the consequence of the increasing barriers and obstacles that migrants face along their migratory journeys”, she added. Migrants may have been victims of crime themselves for example, and not been able to report those crimes to justice. “The can be abused, they can be the victims of violence or persecution, of torture and event trafficking”, Ms Bonzon said.

The recently released World Disaster Report: Leaving no one behind highlights that migrants, particularly migrants in an irregular situation, face increasing threats to their rights and wellbeing. They may be “left behind” because they are “out of reach”, or “out of sight”. Often, humanitarian actors may also consider migrants “out of scope” of their work.

The GCM offers concrete measures that if implemented, will help to reduce the barriers that multiply the risks that migrants face. For example, by allowing humanitarian actors to save lives and help people in need, run “safe spaces” offering humanitarian assistance, provide information, by supporting social cohesion and fighting discrimination and xenophobia, or by addressing and reducing vulnerabilities of migrants caught in crises. “While there is room for disagreement about migration policy, there is no policy goal that can ever justify the suffering of vulnerable people, including migrants”, Ms Bonzon concluded.

The GCM is an occasion to ensure that all people migrating are treated humanely and have access to the essential services that are critical to their survival and dignity. It should be seized.