Prime Minister Scott Morrison announced on Nov. 21 that Australia will not sign the United Nations global migration deal, saying that it would not benefit the country and would compromise Australia’s national interests and border security.
Morrison said the U.N.’s deal—also known as the Global Compact for Migration—did not distinguish between “people who enter Australia illegally and those who come to Australia the right way, particularly with respect to the provision of welfare and other benefits.”
“The compact would risk encouraging illegal entry to Australia and reverse Australia’s hard-won successes in combating the people smuggling trade,” Morrison said in a joint statement with Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton and Foreign Minister Marise Payne.
“It would also be used by those who have sought to undermine Australia’s strong border protection laws and practices.”
Morrison told 2GB radio on Nov. 21: “I would never allow something to compromise our borders. I’ve worked too hard to ensure that we weren’t in that position.”
Australia joins a growing number of other countries that have refused to sign the migration pact, including the United States, Hungary, Austria, Croatia, Israel, the Czech Republic, Poland, and Bulgaria.
‘Conflict With Important Principles’
The U.N.’s Global Compact for Migration (pdf), set to be signed in Marrakesh, Morocco, on Dec. 11-12, is to be the first of its kind to outline global standards and guidelines for migration.
According to the U.N. website, the compact provides a framework for facilitating safe and orderly migration globally, with an effort to deal with migration “in a holistic and comprehensive manner.” It is not legally binding.
It also sets out a range of actionable commitments, which could possibly influence legislation and policymaking for member states.
The compact has 23 objectives that seek to boost cooperation among countries to manage migration and includes such aims as to “strengthen the transnational response to smuggling of migrants ” and “manage borders in an integrated, secure, and coordinated manner.”
But Morrison said the migration pact did not align with Australia’s interests.
“We do not believe that adopting this agreement will add anything to enhancing our capacity to control our borders and manage our successful immigration program,” read a statement from the PM’s office.
“The Compact was promoted as [a] way to promote safe, orderly, and regular migration. We already achieve all of these goals.
“We also believe that adopting the Compact would directly conflict with important principles that have underpinned our successful approach.”
Dutton told Sky News that there would be concerns as to how courts would interpret the U.N. pact with regard to how migrants arrived.
“We’re concerned about whether or not it starves us as a sovereign nation of the ability to decide the way in which we can return people under the compact,” he said.
“Certain obligations could be imposed where we needed to support people once they’d been returned back to a country of origin, so it really undermines the tenets of Operation Sovereign Borders.”
Operation Sovereign Borders is a military-led border security operation that began in 2013 seeking to protect Australia’s borders by stopping asylum seekers who arrive by sea.
Morrison added that Australia’s settlements programs are focused on integration and inclusion, noting that “Australia is a nation built on migration.”
“We have a long and successful history of well-managed migration that is designed to meet Australia’s economic and social needs,” he said in the release.
He said that Australia remains committed to its existing regional partnerships such as the Bali Process which works to prevent people smuggling.
“Australia will continue to strengthen our responses to people smuggling and human trafficking, promote regional cooperation and reinforce the obligation of countries to accept the return of their nationals,” he said.