New Zealand will sign up to the UN’s migration compact, despite calls from the National Party to follow other countries like Australia and the United States in abandoning the international pact.
Foreign Minister Winston Peters said New Zealand had decided to suppoprt the UN Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration after being satisfied fears about the document were unfounded.
“The Government would not support the UN compact if it compromised New Zealand’s sovereignty or could in any way take precedence over our immigration or domestic laws. But the compact does not do that,” he said.
The 34-page document, the result of intergovernmental consultation and negotiations which began in late 2016, sets out 23 “objectives” for signatories to move towards what is calls a “common understanding, shared responsibilities and unity of purpose regarding migration, making it work for all”.
The agreement has proved controversial to both the UN’s usual critics and a number of major countries.
Meanwhile, National pre-emptively pledged to pull out of the deal, if it were to come to power in 2020.
US President Donald Trump withdrew his country from negotiations shortly after taking office, while Italy, Israel, Poland and Switzerland are among those who will not attend the Morocco conference.
Closer to home, Australia has also opted against signing the compact. The country’s home affairs minister, Peter Dutton, said the government was “not going to surrender our sovereignty” – language that has been echoed by National MPs in New Zealand.
National Party foreign affairs spokesman Todd McClay said his party had several issues with the compact, such as the failure to distinguish between legal and illegal migration and commitments to endorse policies National believed amounted to infringements of the rights of a free press.
“But the major issue we have is that we do not believe that migration policy should be governed through a UN framework.”
‘Matter of sovereignty’
Migration was a matter for each sovereign state, he said.
“This does not lend itself well to a first-of-its-kind global framework that is being proposed.”
McClay also said when countries were signed up to such agreements they were obliged to put in place the principles and policies they committed to.
“If we fail to follow through, we will not only face pressure to adjust our policies but it very well may be that our courts will hold us to the standard we committed to,” McClay said.
Following the concerns raised about the migration pact, Peters said he sought advice from Crown Law and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade.
The two organisations said the UN cooperation framework was neither legally binding nor constraining on New Zealand setting its own migration policies.
The advice also said the agreement would not curtail existing human rights, including the right to freedom of expression.
“The legal advice from Crown Law is not surprising but is important advice in debunking falsehoods or misguided perceptions being spread about the implications of this framework,” Peter said.
New Zealand was voting for the compact because the government supported greater efforts in controlling migration issues, while also being confident the country’s sovereign decision making wasn’t compromised.