Posted on August 1, 2018

UN Wants Good News on Migrants

Chris Merritt, The Australian, August 1, 2018

A major UN pact on migration commits governments to introduce programs aimed at “sensitising and educating” the media and withholding public funding from publications that “promote intolerance” of migrants.

Meanwhile, Switzerland has hit back after Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton declared Australia would not sign the compact as it stands, contradicting his suggestion it would undermine national sovereignty.

UN member states, led by Mexico and Switzerland, helped negotiate the compact and the final text suggests it could pressure Canberra to review its immigration detention policies.

Switzerland’s ambassador to Australia, Pedro Zwahlen, instead said sovereignty was central to the deal and emphasised the agreement was not legally binding.

“Not at all. National sovereignty is one of the 10 guiding principles of the Global Compact for Migration. The right of states to determine their migration policies and ‘their prerogative to govern migration within their jurisdiction’ is explicitly reaffirmed,” he told The Australian.

“(The agreement) is neither a treaty nor a convention and has no legally binding power.”

He said Australia had been a part of the negotiations.

The education program for those in the media, which would extend to their terminology, is outlined in paragraph 33 of the final draft of the Global Compact for Migration which commits governments to “shape perceptions of migration”.

Paragraph 15 of the compact “affirms the sovereign right of states to determine their national migration policy and their prerogative to govern migration within their jurisdiction”.

But that provision also says this should be done “in conformity with international law”.

The compact also commits governments to review and revise migration legislation, policies and practices “in accordance with international law”. That revision should “prioritise non-custodial alternatives to detention”.

The compact requires governments to shape perceptions of migration by promoting “evidence-based public discourse”.

While some media outlets would lose public funding under the compact, it also requires governments to invest in advertising and “ethical reporting standards”.

It says these steps should be taken in order to promote “independent, objective and quality reporting … in full respect for the freedom of the media”.

The final draft of the compact, dated July 11, was published by the UN’s International Organisation for Migration.

The IOM, which will have a key role in administering the compact, produced “supplemental input” last October for a report on its “actionable commitments”.

That IOM document says one of the goals of the compact should be to “work with local media to develop means for regular transmission of positive narratives about migrants and migration in order to counteract discrimination, ­racism and xenophobia”.

The IOM’s proposed actionable commitments included a move to “align national legislation with obligations and standards on the protection of migrants in relevant international law”.

The Australian revealed last week that the Turnbull government had left the door open to withdrawing from the compact, which so far only the US and Hungary have rejected. Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull has simply said Australia is “considering” the deal.