New York, June 26, 2018 – We, the members of the U.S. Catholic Working Group on the Global Compacts on Refugees and Migration1, write to provide our position on several issues debated during the fifth round of negotiations on the Global Compact on Safe, Orderly, and Regular Migration. We consider the positive resolution of these issues vital to the success and integrity of the Compact and to its contribution in improving the situation of the world’s migrants.
First, we urge you to not make distinction between irregular and regular migrants in each objective of the document. All human beings, whether migrating in a regular or irregular manner, possess fundamental human rights that entitle them to certain benefits, including life-sustaining services such as health-care, shelter, food, and education. Also, individuals often go between the two categories, for example, when they are granted a regular migration status through domestic laws, consistent with each nation’s security, such as those promoting family unity, child protection, or refugee protection.
Second, we ask you to maintain and reinforce the principle of non-refoulment in the Compact to assure that this principle provides its fullest, life-saving protection on the ground. Removing this term would represent a step back in international protection of migrants in vulnerable situations, many of whom may face harm or death if forcibly returned to their countries.
Third, we urge you to resist calls to remove language that discourages the criminalization of migrants crossing international borders. In our view and many others’, migrants in search of work or safety are not criminals, as they do not intend to cause harm, but merely to reach safety or seek a better life. Moreover, the criminalization of migrants adds to the spread of xenophobic attitudes, which is contrary to the goals of the Compact.
Fourth, we support the maintenance of language protecting the privacy of migrant’s personal information as they seek vital humanitarian services, so it cannot be used for enforcement purposes. The removal of this protective language would keep migrants from coming forward and accessing needed services or from participating in data collection efforts.
Fifth, we would support the inclusion of a paragraph that states that nothing in the Compact relieves Member States from honoring the human rights of migrants, as contained in UN-approved human rights instruments.
Finally, we support a robust implementation, follow-up, and review mechanism which includes objective criteria for measuring progress and national implementation plans. Civil society, including faith-based organizations, should be partners in implementation efforts and be allowed to participate in the monitoring and evaluation, review, and follow-up processes of the Compact.
While these recommendations do not represent the totality of our concerns, we believe they are essential to fashion a Global Compact which upholds the human rights of all migrants.
We thank the co-facilitators for their consideration and for their leadership in this important effort.
1The working group includes Catholic Charities-USA, Catholic Relief Services (CRS), U.S. Liaison Office of the International Catholic Migration Commission (ICMC), Jesuit Conference of Canada and the United States, Jesuit Refugee Services/USA (JRS-USA), Scalabrini International Migration Network (SIMN), and the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Migration and Refugee Services (USCCB/MRS).