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When Migration Policy Isn't about Migration: Considerations for Implementation of the Global Compact for Migration

  • Tendayi Bloom

Abstract

The fluid use of the terminology associated with “migration governance” can obscure its intention and implications. Different meanings of core terminology risks allowing troubling policies that are not really about migration, understood widely as border crossing, or even more broadly as human movement, to be legitimized. UN-level coordination with regard to “migration governance” needs to be part of addressing this concern. For example, this article advocates explicitly engaging with this risk through the implementation of the Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration. It considers this issue from the perspectives of a handful of countries, each of which has its own complex relationship to the compact. It argues that in each of these apparently very different contexts, policies identified as being directed at “migration control” can be found to be directed not at controlling migration but at reconfiguring existing and stable state societies along ethnic, racial, linguistic, and other lines. The development of implementation plans for the Global Compact for Migration provides the opportunity to interrogate the purposes of “migration governance” and to find mechanisms to address its hidden uses.

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Copyright

Footnotes

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*

The author would like to thank Tanya Herring, Willem Maas, Jess Melvin, Jo Shaw, Katherine Tonkiss, Christoph Sperfeldt, Beth Whitaker, and the editors and anonymous reviewers of Ethics & International Affairs for their comments on earlier drafts of this paper.

Footnotes

References

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NOTES

1 United Nations, Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration, July 11, 2018, refugeesmigrants.un.org/sites/default/files/180711_final_draft_0.pdf.

2 United Nations General Assembly, “Transforming Our World: The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development,” A/RES/70/1, September 25, 2015, www.un.org/ga/search/view_doc.asp?symbol=A/RES/70/1&Lang=E.

3 Ibid., p. 21/35.

4 “Mediterranean the Deadliest Sea for Refugees and Migrants, Says UN Agency,” UN News Centre, January 31, 2012, news.un.org/en/story/2012/01/401822-mediterranean-deadliest-sea-refugees-and-migrants-says-un-agency; and Brian, Tara and Laczko, Frank, eds., Fatal Journeys: Tracking Lives Lost during Migration (Geneva: International Organization for Migration, 2014), pp.18, 20.

5 Missing Migrants website, International Organization for Migration, missingmigrants.iom.int/.

6 United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, Global Compact on Refugees, June 26, 2018, www.un.org/pga/72/wp-content/uploads/sites/51/2018/07/Global-Compact-on-Refugees.pdf.

7 United Nations, Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration, p. 4.

8 For example, see Perruchoud, Richard and Redpath-Cross, Jillyanne, eds. Glossary on Migration, Second Edition (Geneva: International Organization for Migration, 2011), p.61.

9 United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs, Recommendations on Statistics of International Migration, revision 1, ST/ESA/STAT/SER.M/58/Rev.1 (New York: United Nations, 1998); reiterated in United Nations, Department of Economic and Social Affairs, Statistics Division, Handbook on Measuring International Migration through Population Censuses (New York: United Nations, 2017) (emphasis in the original); see for example the website “Who Is A Migrant?” from the International Organization of Migration: www.iom.int/who-is-a-migrant.

10 Beard, Mary, SPQR: A History of Ancient Rome (London: Profile Books, 2015).

11 Kennedy, John, A Nation of Immigrants (New York: Popular Library, 1964).

12 Aslan, Reza, No God but God: The Origins, Evolution, and Future of Islam (London: Arrow Books, 2011).

13 For example, see the essays in Birch, Eugenie L. and Wachter, Susan M., eds., Global Urbanization (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2011). A particularly extraordinary cinematic expression of the importance of internal movement in China, can be seen, for example, in Lixin Fan's film Gui tu lie che (Last Train Home), (New York: Zeitgeist Films, 2011), DVD.

14 For example, Katja Franko has conducted a useful analysis of Norwegian migration statistics; Katja Franko, “Migrant Contested Citizenship” (paper presented at the Contested Humanities conference, Pontifical University Urbaniana, Rome, Italy, April 2, 2019). This is problematized by two influential collections: Shukla, Nikesh, ed., The Good Immigrant (London: Unbound, 2016) and Shukla, Nikesh and Suleyman, Chimène, eds., The Good Immigrant USA: 26 Writers Reflect on America (London: Dialogue Books, 2019).

15 Kyaw, Nyi Nyi, “Unpacking the Presumed Statelessness of Rohingyas,” Journal of Immigrant & Refugee Studies 15, no. 3 (2017), pp. 269–86.

16 See, for example, the analysis in Abdelkader, Engy, “The Rohingya Muslims in Myanmar: Past, Present, and Future,” Oregon Review of International Law 15(3) (2013), pp. 393411.

17 José María Arraiza and Olivier Vonk, Report on Citizenship Law: Myanmar, Country Report 2017/14 (Italy: European University Institute, 2017), pp. 11–13. In addition, the European University Institute website provides an English language version of the act: Burma Citizenship Law (Pyithu Hluttaw Law No. 4 of 1982) eudo-citizenship.eu/NationalDB/docs/1982%20Myanmar%20Citizenship%20Law%20%5BENGLISH%5D.pdf.

18 Brinham, Natalie, “The Conveniently Forgotten Human Rights of the Rohingya,” Forced Migration Review 41 (December 2012), pp. 4041.

19 Khin, Tun, “Rohingya: A Preventable Genocide Allowed to Happen,” in “Reclaiming the Region: Russia, the West and the Middle East,” special issue, Insight Turkey 19, no. 4 (Fall 2017), pp. 4353. For another analysis of rationales behind the recent events, see Saskia Sassen, “Is Rohingya persecution caused by business interests rather than religion?,” Guardian, January 4, 2017.

20 UN Human Rights Council, Report of the Independent Fact-Finding Mission on Myanmar, A/HRC/39/64 (Geneva: UN Human Rights Council, 2018).

21 “Mr. Mohibullah,” speaking in “SR on Human Rights in Myanmar—27th Meeting, 40th Regular Session Human Rights Council,” UN Web TV, 1:01 (starts at 00:48:34), interactive dialogue with special rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Myanmar, March 11, 2019, webtv.un.org/meetings-events/human-rights-council/watch/id-contd-sr-on-human-rights-in-myanmar-27th-meeting-40th-regular-session-human-rights-council/6012544413001/?term#player.

22 See, for example, Wooding, Bridget, “Contesting Dominican Discrimination and Statelessness,” Peace Review: A Journal of Social Justice 20, no. 3 (2008), pp. 366–75; and Blake, Jillian, “Race-Based Statelessness in the Dominican Republic,” in Bloom, Tendayi, Tonkiss, Katherine, and Cole, Phillip, eds., Understanding Statelessness (Abingdon, U.K.: Routledge, 2017), pp. 102–16.

23 Allison Petrozziello, “Engendering Statelessness through Indirect Gender Discrimination: Global Relevance of the Case of Dominicans of Haitian Descent” (panel discussion, Human Rights, Migration, and Global Governance, Luiss University, Rome, July 12–14, 2018). To get a sense of the social implications, consider the background painted in novels such as Díaz's, JunotThe Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao (London: Faber and Faber, 2008) and the historical backdrop provided in Danticat's, EdwidgeThe Farming of Bones (New York: Penguin Books, 1999).

24 Ernesto Sagás, Report on Citizenship Law: Dominican Republic, Country Report 2017/16 (Italy: European University Institute, 2017); and Petrozziello, “Engendering Statelessness through Indirect Gender Discrimination.”

25 Amnesty International, ‘Where Are We Going to Live’? Migration and Statelessness in Haiti and the Dominican Republic, AMR 36/4105/2016 (London: Amnesty International, 2016).

26 At the Conference to Adopt the Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration in Marrakech, 164 UN Member States joined in the adoption of the compact and it was sent for endorsement to the General Assembly. At the meeting of the UN General Assembly held in New York, on December 19, 2018, 152 countries were in favor of the GCM; five were against it (Czech Republic, Hungary, Israel, Poland, United States); twelve abstained (Algeria, Australia, Austria, Bulgaria, Chile, Italy, Latvia, Libya, Liechtenstein, Romania, Singapore, and Switzerland); and twenty-four did not vote.

27 Goodnow, Katherine, “Points of Change: From Concerns for Individuals to Concerns for Groups,” in Goodnow, Katherine, with Lohman, Jack and Marfleet, Philip, Museums, the Media and Refugees: Stories of Crisis, Control and Compassion (New York: Berghahn Books, 2008), p. 165.

28 See, for example, Ben Doherty, “Australian Citizens Wrongfully Detained Because of Immigration Failures, Report Finds,” Guardian, February 1, 2018.

29 Matt Stevens, “9-Year-Old Girl Was Detained at Border for 30 Hours despite Being a U.S. Citizen,” New York Times, March 22, 2019.

30 Paige St. John and Joel Rubin, “ICE Held an American Man in Custody for 1,273 Days. He's Not the Only One Who Had to Prove His Citizenship,” Los Angeles Times, April 27, 2018.

31 Anzaldúa, Gloria, Borderlands/ La Frontera: The New Mestiza (San Francisco: Aunt Lute Books, 1987).

32 James Kirkup and Robert Winnett, “Theresa May Interview: ‘We're Going to Give Illegal Migrants a Really Hostile Reception,’” Telegraph, May 25, 2012, www.telegraph.co.uk/news/uknews/immigration/9291483/Theresa-May-interview-Were-going-to-give-illegal-migrants-a-really-hostile-reception.html. In a 2012 interview, Theresa May, as the U.K. home secretary, expressed her intention to “create here in Britain a really hostile environment for illegal migration.” Some trace the “hostile environment” policy specifically to Theresa May's period as home secretary between 2010 and 2016, though others suggest that it began much earlier. See, for example, Bloom, Tendayi, “London's ‘Ghosts’: The Capital and the UK Policy of Destitution of Refused Asylum-Seekers,” in Kershen, Anne J., London the Promised Land Revisited: The Changing Face of the London Migrant Landscape in the Early 21st Century (Farnham, U.K.: Ashgate, 2016).

33 Great Britain, Home Office, Enforcing the Rules: A Strategy to Ensure and Enforce Compliance with Our Immigration Laws (London: Home Office, 2007).

34 Theresa May, speaking in “Theresa May: Health Tourism ‘Not Fair,’” BBC News video, 8:36, from a broadcast of the Today Programme on BBC Radio 4, October 10, 2013, www.bbc.co.uk/news/av/uk-24471679/Theresa-may-health-tourism-not-fair.

35 Amelia Gentleman, “‘I Can't Eat or Sleep’: The Woman Threatened with Deportation after 50 Years in Britain,” Guardian, November 28, 2017; and Amelia Gentleman, “‘They Don't Tell You Why’: Threatened with Removal after 52 Years in the UK,” Guardian, December 1, 2017.

36 The Commonwealth was initially composed of countries that had become independent from the British Empire. This is no longer the case, as can be seen by the membership of Mozambique and Rwanda. The Commonwealth today is a primarily political and cultural grouping, but its citizens still hold some special rights in other countries that are part of the association. See, for example, Bloom, Tendayi, “Contradictions in Formal Commonwealth Citizenship Rights in Commonwealth Countries,” Round Table: The Commonwealth Journal of International Affairs 100, no. 417 (December 2011), pp. 639–54.

37 Kate Osamor, “Britain Is Wrongly Deporting Commonwealth Nationals—This Must Stop Now,” Guardian April 16, 2018; and “7,600 Deported to Commonwealth Nations on ‘Charter Flights’ since 2010,” Scotsman, April 19, 2018.

38 “‘It's Inhumane’: The Windrush Victims Who Have Lost Jobs, Homes and Loved Ones,” Guardian, April 20, 2018; Amelia Gentleman, “‘I'm Struggling’: Windrush Victims Say Little Has Changed One Year On,” Guardian, April 15, 2019; and Harriet Agerholm, “Windrush: Government Admits 83 British Citizen Say Have Been Wrongfully Deported Due to Scandal but Will Only Apologise to 18,” Independent, August 21, 2018.

39 “Commonwealth Citizens Arriving before 1971,” University of Oxford, Migration Observatory, last updated June 5, 2019, migrationobservatory.ox.ac.uk/resources/commentaries/commonwealth-citizens-arriving-before-1971/.

40 See, for example, Amelia Gentleman, “The Children of Windrush: ‘I'm Here Legally but They're Asking Me to Prove I'm British,’” Guardian, April 15, 2018.

41 British High Commission, “Coming Home to Jamaica” (unpublished booklet, n.d.), p. 24.

42 Luke de Noronha, “Deportation, Racism and Multi-Status Britain: Immigration Control and the Production of Race in the Present,” Ethnic and Racial Studies 42 no. 14 (March 2019).

43 Nikki Haley, quoted in “United States Ends Participation in Global Compact on Migration,” United States Mission to the United Nations, December 2, 2017, usun.usmission.gov/united-states-ends-participation-in-global-compact-on-migration/?_ga=2.208802070.563333836.1567196879-980889208.1567196879.

44 “National Statement of the United States of America on the Adoption of the Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration,” United States Mission to the United Nations, December 7, 2018, usun.usmission.gov/national-statement-of-the-united-states-of-america-on-the-adoption-of-the-global-compact-for-safe-orderly-and-regular-migration/.

45 Bosniak, Linda, “Being Here: Ethical Territoriality and the Rights of Immigrants,” Theoretical Inquiries in Law 8, no. 2 (2007), pp. 389410.

46 Firewalls appear in objective 6(j), objective 7(g), and objective 15(c) of the zero draft of the “Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration.”

47 See, for example, Carens, Joseph H., “The Rights of Irregular Migrants,” Ethics & International Affairs 22, no. 2 (Summer 2008), pp. 163–86.

48 In the final draft, objective 6(j) emphasizes the need for protections for those working in the informal economy, including the need to ensure that those reporting rights abuses are not made more vulnerable as a result. Objective 7(g) commits to ensuring all migrants have access to justice in a way that is impartial and non-discriminatory. Objective 15 sets out commitments to ensure that all migrants have access to basic services in a way that is non-discriminatory and that there are mechanisms for highlighting and fixing impaired access to services.

49 See, for example, “Terms of Reference for the UN Network on Migration,” United Nations, n.d., www.un.org/en/conf/migration/assets/pdf/UN-Network-on-Migration_TOR.pdf.

* The author would like to thank Tanya Herring, Willem Maas, Jess Melvin, Jo Shaw, Katherine Tonkiss, Christoph Sperfeldt, Beth Whitaker, and the editors and anonymous reviewers of Ethics & International Affairs for their comments on earlier drafts of this paper.

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When Migration Policy Isn't about Migration: Considerations for Implementation of the Global Compact for Migration

  • Tendayi Bloom

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