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Crushing majority adopts UN Refugee Compact

The UN General Assembly has overwhelmingly adopted a refugee deal to strengthen their international management. This text that has not received as much attention as the recently adopted Global Compact on Migration.

Published: December 19, 2018, 8:12 am

    New York

    The resolution on the Refugee Compact was approved by 181 countries at the UN General Assembly on 18 December. Only two countries voted against it: the United States and Hungary. Three abstained: the Dominican Republic, Eritrea and Libya.

    The Trump administration had recently explained that while it supported most of the text, it was against some elements, such as the one aimed at limiting possible detentions of people seeking asylum in another country. Hungary, for its part, affirmed that the United Nations did not need a new legal instrument on the subject.

    Like the highly controversial Global Compact on Migration , the one on refugees claims to be “non-binding”. However, unlike the Marrakesh Pact, negotiations of the refugee deal went relatively unnoticed.

    Written under the leadership of the Geneva-based High Commissioner for Refugees and directed by the Italian Filippo Grandi, the aim of the latter is to foster an “adequate international response” to the massive refugee movements and the current refugee situations.

    The document includes four key objectives: easing pressure on host countries; increasing the autonomy of refugees; expanding access to third-country solutions; and helping to create the conditions in the countries of origin necessary for the return of refugees in safety and dignity.

    “No country should be left alone to deal with a massive influx of refugees,” said Filippo Grandi, welcoming a “historic” decision by the UN: “Refugee crises call for a global sharing of responsibilities and the Compact is a powerful expression of how we work together in today’s fragmented world.”

    The new Compact will “strengthen the assistance and protection of the 25 million refugees identified in the world,” the president of the UN General Assembly, the Ecuadorian Maria Fernanda Espinosa told AFP. “More than 85 percent of the world’s refugees are hosted by low- and middle-income countries… We need to support communities and states that host refugees,” she added.

    Two countries, faced with massive population movements, intervened before the vote. Syria, stressing that the debate should not be politicized, asked the “Office of the High Commissioner for Refugees for more efforts for the return of Syrian refugees”.

    This vote of the UN General Assembly comes a week after the adoption by more than 150 countries (out of the 193 countries represented at the UN), on December 10, of the UN Global Compact on Migration, also called the “Suicide Pact” by critics.

    This raised the fears of a number of states, including the United States and Hungary, but also Austria , Australia, Chile or the Dominican Republic, who chose to withdraw from the Compact, considering that it compromised their sovereignty over migration.

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