The Financial Express

Global Compact for Migration

Taking the civil society on board

| Updated: October 25, 2017 05:26:27

Image credit: Massimo Sestini/The Italian Coastguard Image credit: Massimo Sestini/The Italian Coastguard

In the din and bustle of the large movements of people worldwide, the annex II of the 2016 New York Declaration for Refugees and Migrants sets out steps towards the achievement of a Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration by 2018. This has made the international community currently busy with the preparation and framing of the Compact.

The Compact is important for us not only because it is a brainchild of Bangladesh, but also because it is going to govern migration-much more than just managing migration, through international cooperation. This means that our future national and international policies, which will affect our lives, will be at least influenced, if not guided and shaped by the Compact. 

In the given international political climate where migration has received intense attention, Bangladeshi civil society needs to have a strong presence, collective voice, and unified vision to advocate the best possible governance and policy-making around migration. Preparation for the Compact can provide Bangladesh's civil society with a vital space where its members can collectively chart the best methods, strategies and tools to take action together in relation to migration governance.

There are scopes and avenues for Bangladesh's civil society in framing the Compact. Firstly, the civil society should set a strategy. The strategy could include, but would not be limited to, three dimensions. The first dimension may be to produce a strategy paper on the Compact that will incorporate the civil society's recommendations in the Compact. This can be produced through sitting in a series of coordination meetings, and organising some national and local consultations on the Compact. These consultations must include all relevant stakeholders including the government and media representatives. The second dimension may be meetings with the government's focal point on the Compact for handing over the strategy paper or the recommendations and lobbying for incorporation of civil society's concerns in the text of the Compact. The third dimension may be to encourage the civil society representatives to have presence in the media by writing different articles on the Compact, or migrants' rights, so that it creates pressure on the government for pursuing their recommendations as stated in the strategy paper.

Secondly, once the strategy for dealing with the Compact is finalised, the civil society immediately needs to start drafting a working paper which eventually will turn into a strategy paper through different meetings, workshops, and consultation programmes. Therefore, the working paper should be available at all civil society programmes to make comments or changes to the draft so that it truly charts out in details Bangladesh civil society's position and recommendations, including the best methods, strategies and tools, to take action together on the Compact.

In order to draft the working paper on the Compact, the members of the civil society need to sit down together, identify the issues of concern and jot those down in some thematic areas and draw recommendations and set targets or timeline. The process of identifying the issues of concern must be informed, on one hand, by migrants' voices and facts from the field, and on the other hand, by the New York Declaration for Refugees and Migrants. It is to be noted that the part III of the annex II of the New York Declaration suggests twenty-four elements or contents for the proposed Compact. Three of them particularly seem most important in Bangladesh's context. Let's see the cases.

Article 8(j) of the annex II of the New York Declaration urges 'international cooperation for border control, with full respect for the human rights of migrants'. It means that the provision provides for creating a balance between human rights and security issues in migration governance. However, given that many Bangladeshi migrants have experienced violation of human rights on borders, this scribe would like to suggest that the Compact must redefine the correlations between human rights and security, and bar States from considering migrants, whether documented or undocumented, a threat to national security. Thus this tends to stop violating their human rights on the grounds of security.

Both the articles 8(m) and 8(p) of the annex II of the New York Declaration talk about irregular migration. The first one urges the 'reduction of the incidence and impact of irregular migration', and the second one advises the 'consideration of policies to regularise the status of migrants'. As these provisions talk about regularisation, these are inherently focused on the documented or regular migrants. However, in the given context that there are many irregular Bangladeshi migrants around the globe; and admitting to the fact that whatever measures are taken by the international community, there will always remain a group of undocumented or irregular migrants, because the world's reality is that where there is light there is a shed. The Compact must recognise the social and economic contributions of the undocumented or irregular migrants and pay special attention to their human rights issues in the country of destination. Since the undocumented or the irregular migrants have already formed a group of marginalised people under the contemporary international instruments, there are chances that they would become further marginalised under the proposed Global Compact on Migration, if it does not pay any special attention to them.

The UN gave advice to cluster the issues of concern into six thematic areas around which the Compact is likely to be structured. Therefore, the civil society's recommendations must also be focused on the six thematic areas. One, human rights of all migrants, social inclusion, cohesion and all forms of discrimination including racism, xenophobia and intolerance. Two, addressing drivers of migration, including adverse effects of climate change, natural disasters and human-made crises, through protection and assistance, sustainable development, poverty eradication, conflict prevention and resolution. Three, international cooperation and governance of migration in all its dimensions, including on borders, on transit, entry, return, readmission, integration and reintegration. Four, contributions of migrants and diasporas to all dimensions of sustainable development, including remittances and portability of earned benefits. Five, smuggling of migrants, trafficking in persons and contemporary forms of slavery, including appropriate identification, protection and assistance to migrants and trafficking victims. And six, irregular migration and regular pathways, including decent work, labour mobility, recognition of skills and qualifications and other relevant measures.

Last but not the least, since migration is a political phenomenon, honest political commitment of political leaders is important for protecting and upholding the human rights of migrants. Against the backdrop, the Bangladeshi civil society can also play an important role in influencing the politicians so that a strong political commitment can be ensured in the ratification and implementation of the Global Compact on Migration.

The writer is the Coordinator of Bangladesh Civil Society Coordination Committee on Migration, Development and Human Rights.

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