Austria to withdraw from UN migration pact

Austria has announced its decision not to sign the United Nations (UN) pact on migration, arguing that the global arrangement is inadequate for managing global migration flows. Vienna said it could blur the line between regular and irregular migration, and undermine Austria’s sovereignty. The pact is scheduled to be adopted at a UN conference in the Moroccan city of Marrakech in December 2018.

“Austria will not join the UN migration pact,” Chancellor Sebstian Kurz told national public service broadcaster ORF following a government meeting. “We view some points of the migration pact very critically, such as the mixing up of seeking protection with labour migration.”

“We will, therefore, abstain in the vote at the UN General Assembly in the year 2019,” Kurz added. Austria is the third country to back out of the pact, following the United States and Hungary.

Mr Kurz’s conservative Austrian People’s Party and their coalition partner, the Freedom Party of Austria, took office in 2017. The coalition campaigned and won on an anti-immigration platform that emerged after the surge of asylum seekers in Europe in 2015.

“Migration is not and should not become a human right,” said Vice Chancellor Heinz-Christian Strache. “We decide who comes into Austria and no one else.”

The UN migration pact, which is non-binding, was born out of the72nd Session of the UN General Assembly on 13 July 2018. UN General Assembly President Miroslav Lajčák said “the arrangement does not encourage migration, nor does it aim to stop it,” adding that it will not impose and it fully respects the sovereignty of states.

A European Commission spokesperson said: “We regret the decision that the Austrian government has taken. We continue to believe that migration is a global challenge where only global solutions and global responsibility sharing will bring results.” She added that Austria had played “an extremely constructive and key role” in the negotiations.

Poland has also expressed opposition to the pact, and could be next to pull out.

TMP – 5/11/2018

Photo: Alexandros Michailidis/Shutterstock. Brussels, Belgium. 17th Oct 2018. Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz arrives for a meeting with European Union leaders.