Statement of the Scalabrini International Migration Network International Dialogue on Migration April 19, 2017

The Scalabrini International Migration Network (SIMN) operates 270 programs worldwide serving migrants, refugees, victims of human trafficking, and the internally displaced—schools, shelters, parishes, and community centers.  We would like to thank the International Organization on Migration (IOM) for hosting this dialogue and allowing for our participation.

While SIMN plans to comment on the many substantive issues involved in the Global Compact on Safe, Orderly, and Regular Migration as the process continues, we would like to make one general comment at the outset.  This perspective comes from our observations and experience in the field. 

The lofty goals of the Compact, as articulated by Director General William Swing and others, and the reality on the ground are far apart—a gap that will be challenging to bridge.   The reality on the ground is that a record number of persons are on the move globally and a new model is already emerging to address their large movements.  Unfortunately, this model is not based upon human rights principles, but on the goal of keeping large movements of persons where they are, and, in some cases, pushing them back to from where they have fled.

In Europe and Africa, the Americas, and Asia/Oceania, we are seeing examples of a new model based on deterrence.  This model is marked by interdiction at land and sea, the use of detention and offshore processing facilities, the closing of borders, conditional aid agreements, the denial of due-process to asylum-seekers, securitization policies, and, in one case, the cruel suggestion that children would be separated from their mothers.  These policies are implemented through informal or formal arrangements, usually between destination and transit countries, in which the destination country provides incentives to the transit country to halt the large movements before they reach the borders of the destination country.  The effect of these arrangements is the extension of a destination country’s borders—an externalization of enforcement.

Unfortunately, these arrangements do not account for the need to externalize protection.  It is a model akin to firemen arriving at a burning house and locking the doors.

These deterrence policies only strengthen smuggling and trafficking networks and place migrants, ever more desperate to find protection, in more dangerous situations.  For the Global Compact to be successful, it needs to replace this deterrence model with a human rights-based model, marked by responsibility-sharing among all stakeholders—the global community, international organizations, and civil society—and a commitment to legal avenues for migration.  If the Compact fails to replace this deterrence framework, which is rapidly emerging as the migration governance structure in the world, or at least ensures that it is mitigated with protection measures, it would fail in its goal to alter the reality on the ground and to positively impact the lives of millions of our fellow human beings who are on the move.

We look forward to working with member states, IOM, and all parties on this central issue and other important issues during the process of developing the compact.