UN adopts global migration pact rejected by US and others

The US said the Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration represents “an effort by the United Nations to advance global governance at the expense of the sovereign right of states to manage their immigration systems.” (File/AFP)
Updated 10 December 2018
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UN adopts global migration pact rejected by US and others

  • UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said developed nations needed migration
  • Ten countries, mostly in formerly Communist Eastern Europe, have pulled out

MARRAKESH, Morocco: The United Nations on Monday adopted a deal aimed at improving the way the world copes with rising migration, but almost 30 countries stayed away from the ceremony in Morocco.

The pact, meant to foster cooperation on migration, was agreed in July by all 193 UN members except the US, but only 164 formally signed it at the meeting on Monday.

Ten countries, mostly in formerly Communist Eastern Europe, have pulled out. Six more, among them Israel and Bulgaria, are debating whether to quit, a UN spokesman said after the pact was adopted. He did not say whether the rest of the countries absent from the conference in Marrakesh might also pull out.

With a record 21.3 million refugees globally, the UN began work on the non-binding pact after more than 1 million people arrived in Europe in 2015, many fleeing civil war in Syria and poverty in Africa.

But President Donald Trump’s administration said the global approach to the issue was not compatible with US sovereignty.

Since July, the accord, which addresses issues such as how to protect migrants, integrate them and send them home, has been criticized by mostly right-wing European politicians who say it could increase immigration from African and Arab countries.

Angela Merkel, accused by critics of worsening the refugee crisis by opening Germany’s borders in 2015, said cooperation was the only answer to tackle the world’s problems.

“The pact is worth fighting for,” the German chancellor, one of around a dozen national leaders in Marrakesh, told the forum. “It’s about time that we finally tackle migration together.”

Without naming Trump or his “America First” stance, she said multilateralism was the way “to make the world a better place.” 

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said developed nations needed migration.

“In the many places where fertility is declining and life expectancy is rising, economies will stagnate and people will suffer without migration,” he said in his opening address.

On Sunday, Chile withdraw from the pact, while Belgian Prime Minister Charles Michel saw the biggest party in his coalition quit in a dispute over the accord.

In November, Austria’s right-wing government, which holds the EU presidency, said it would withdraw, saying the pact would blur the line between legal and illegal migration.

Australia said it would not sign up to a deal it said would compromise its hard-line immigration policy. 


Bangladesh arrests Islamist extremist over deadly cafe attack

Updated 4 min 7 sec ago
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Bangladesh arrests Islamist extremist over deadly cafe attack

  • Mufti Mahmud Khan, a spokesman for the elite Rapid Action Battalion, says the suspect supplied money and weapons for a local banned Islamist militant group
  • The arrested is one of the key “decision-makers” in the homegrown militia blamed for the attack
DHAKA: Bangladesh has arrested a suspected Islamist extremist who supplied weapons and explosives for a 2016 siege that killed 22 hostages, a top police official said Sunday.
Eighteen foreigners were among those shot and hacked to death in the 10-hour standoff at the Holey Artisan Bakery, an upmarket cafe in Dhaka, before military commandos stormed the building and freed some two dozen other people.
Mamunur Rashid was a key “decision-maker” in Jamayetul Mujahideen Bangladesh (JMB), a banned homegrown Islamist militant outfit blamed for the attack.
The 30-year-old was arrested while traveling on a bus outside the capital Dhaka, said Mufti Mahmud Khan, a spokesman for the elite Rapid Action Battalion.
Rashid “supplied money, arms, ammunition and explosives for the attack,” Khan told reporters.
“He hid in a neighboring country and tried to reorganize the group. They were also planning to rescue their accomplices from custody.”
A former computer operator and Islamic seminary student, Rashid also provided logistical support to Islamists involved in several deadly attacks on religious minorities in the country’s north, Khan said.
A court in Dhaka last month put eight militants on trial over the cafe attack.
Khan said Rashid was one of the two men charged in absentia, while the other six were already in custody.
The Holey Artisan Bakery siege fueled fears over violent Islamist groups in the Muslim-majority nation of 165 million people.
The government also launched a nationwide crackdown against extremists immediately after the attack, killing nearly 100 alleged extremists in gunfights including several top JMB leaders.
The attack marked a violent escalation from a spate of high-profile murders in the country since 2013, with extremists targeting Bangladeshi atheist writers, rights activists, gays, foreigners and religious minorities.
Bangladesh last week banned the release of a film based on the cafe attack, saying it would tarnish the country’s image.