Migration Agreement Must Close “Protection Gaps” That Affect Vulnerable People

Geneva, 8 May 2018 - As a new round of negotiations on the Global Compact on Migration begins in New York next week, civil society organizations are warning that migrants in vulnerable situations might fall through “gaps in protection” present in the current version of the agreement.

In an Open Letter to UN Member States, civil society organizations are calling on governments to respect the spirit of the New York Declaration for Refugees and Migrants and make sure that the Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration truly helps protect the dignity of all migrants.

Drafted by members of the Action Committee, the letter is open to civil society organizations for sign-on until 18 May. [Update: Nearly 300 organizations signed the letter by the end of May.]

The GCM needs to include provisions for the situation of migrants who have not yet asked for, do not have access to, or have been denied asylum, and migrants in situations of vulnerability. Photo: Hoping to reach the United States to claim asylum, a group of young Honduran refugees and migrants board a boat on the banks of the Usumacinta river. ©UNHCR/Tito Herrera The letter identifies critical areas that the Global Compact on Migration (GCM) must address if it is to achieve its goals and meet its original vision: 

  • Access to protection and services. Regardless of their status, regular and irregular migrants must be able to safely and easily report crimes, gender-discrimination and unfair labor practices, to attend—or take children to—school, and to receive medical attention.
  • Detention practices. The practice of detaining migrant children must end, and detention of all other migrants must be a last resort.
  • Mixed migration. The GCM needs to include provisions for the situation of migrants who have not yet asked for, do not have access to, or have been denied asylum, and migrants in situations of vulnerability.
  • Communication and referral mechanisms between the two compacts—on migration and on refugees—are essential to prevent “protection gaps” and to respond to the intimately linked experiences of refugees and migrants on the ground.
  • Safe and regular pathways. Underpinning all these issues is the critical need to expand safe and regular migration pathways—something that cannot be achieved without an honest discussion and cooperation between UN Member States.

The Open Letter will be submitted to government officials during the next round of GCM negotiations starting on 14 May. The drafters invite all members of civil society to join the call to ensure that the GCM leaves nobody behind and puts the most vulnerable first.

The letter is available in French and Spanish.

On 19 September 2016, at a high-level meeting in the UN General Assembly, States adopted the New York Declaration for Refugees and Migrants. The Declaration recognized the need for a comprehensive approach to human mobility and enhanced cooperation at the global level and set the basis for the two Global Compact processes.

The Compacts, one on Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration and another on Refugees, aim to improve and strengthen global governance and international cooperation on those matters. Negotiations of both Compacts are currently ongoing, and the agreements are expected to be adopted by the end of 2018.