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Turning promise into action: Two Years into the Implementation of the Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration

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Today, the United Nations Secretary-General has called on Member States and all partners to redouble efforts in implementing the Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration (GCM) and protect the human rights of all migrants, regardless of status, including while responding to COVID-19.

The Secretary-General’s report “From Promise to Action: The Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration” highlights the impact of this cooperative framework in the two years since its adoption while also noting efforts required to improve migration governance and cooperation at all levels.

Whereas COVID-19 has disrupted efforts to implement the GCM in many areas, it has also spurred the adoption of some supportive policies. Promising practices include ensuring access for all to health care and other essential services, irrespective of migration status; extending work and residency permits or regularising the status of migrants; and releasing migrants, including children and families, from immigration detention and prioritising non-custodial alternatives to detention in the community.

“Migrants should not be stigmatized or denied access to medical treatment and other public services. We must strengthen the immunity of our societies against the virus of hate,” said UN Secretary-General in his video statement.

Some States have suspended forced returns due to COVID-19, a move the Network has been urging to safeguard the rights, health and safety of migrants and communities. Others have made efforts to ensure that those returning home receive support, including health checks, adequate reception and accommodation for those self-isolating and in quarantine, access to child protection and other services, and reintegration support.

However, reactions to the pandemic have also exacerbated existing inequalities and too often eroded migrants’ well-being and dignity on the pretext of public health, sometimes even at the cost of their lives. Millions of migrants have been affected by the closing of national borders and disruptions to international travel. Many migrants have become stranded with no way to get home safely. Forced returns of migrants, including without due care to health, safety and child protection standards, have also intensified during this pandemic and are putting lives at risk, including those of thousands of migrant children.

The loss of remittances in low- and middle-income countries due to COVID-19 has had a devastating impact on the lives and well-being of countless migrants and their families, reversing progress in achieving the Sustainable Development Goals. And yet, the pandemic has also highlighted the critical role of international migrants as essential workers, including in healthcare and food supply.

To be effective, responses to COVID-19 must pay equal attention to all, including those in vulnerable situations, regardless of their migration status. Any other approach will constitute a collective public health failure and violation of human and labour rights.

The Global Compact, as made clear in the Secretary-General’s report, provides a framework by which the interests of all can best be governed. “If we are united, we can make migration work for all,” the Secretary-General added.

Many States are leading the way. Countries from all regions have agreed to become Champions of the Compact and committed to sharing their experiences and demonstrating the GCM’s utility in optimizing the benefits of migration.

On the ground, numerous non-state actors are directly involved in supporting migrants integrate into their communities and labour markets, working everyday with and for migrant communities on the frontlines of the COVID-19 pandemic. In providing vital assistance, these organizations are acting as a critical safety net. Concerted action of governments and stakeholders in developing COVID-19 policy responses is key in ensuring that migrants’ rights are realised and contributions are  acknowledged.

The coming months will be critical to building on the progress to date. At the regional level, States and all partners will continue to review what has been achieved as well as what more needs to be done to deliver on the collective ambition of the Compact. These regional conversations will set the basis for a global review of GCM implementation in 2022.

The United Nations Network on Migration reiterates the Secretary-General’s call to embrace the spirit of international cooperation and collaboration to advance the implementation of the Global Compact. The Network stands ready to support Member States in this endeavour prioritizing the human rights and well-being of migrants and their communities of destination, origin, and transit.

As an end to this phase of the COVID-19 pandemic potentially emerges, the next year will be crucial to show how the GCM can lead to positive change and tangible results in the lives of millions of migrants and their communities around the world.

For more information, please contact Florence Kim at the UN Network on Migration secretariat: fkim@iom.int; +41 79 748 0395.