Migrants’ Rights under Threat with US Nomination to Head International Organization for Migration

At the end of this year, member States of the United Nations will adopt a Global Compact on Migration (GCM), following a series of intergovernmental negotiations. A “zero draft” of the GCM was published on Monday 5 February 2018.

Expectations are high that the GCM will deliver commitments and actions from the international community that will promote a fair migration agenda, protect the human and labour rights of migrants and dissipate rising racism and xenophobia, typified by the scapegoating of migrants. Nothing less will do.

The United Nations system as a whole must also be ready to assist member States and stakeholders, including trade unions and civil society, with the implementation of the GCM, in a manner that is consistent with, and reinforces, existing international human and labour rights treaties.

With this in mind, the international trade union movement is dismayed by the decision of the Trump administration to nominate Ken Isaacs as a candidate for the position of Director General of the International Organization for Migration (IOM). Ken Isaacs has an acknowledged history of anti-Islamic statements and of denying the relevance of climate change to migration trends.

The decision of the United States government to withdraw from the GCM process, coupled with the nomination of Ken Isaacs to head the IOM, is a clear indication that the US government shares no interest in the ambition described in the zero draft for a Global Compact on Migration that is “people-centered”, based on the “rule of law and due process”, anchored in “human rights” and with an approach that supports “sustainable development”.

As negotiations of the zero draft begin, we call on all UN member States to stand by the commitment to a rights-based approach. The UN system as a whole must itself must be ready to assist member States in ensuring such an approach. A coherent and effective follow-up by the UN system means that any role for the IOM, now a UN-related agency, would necessitate a review and overhaul of the IOM’s current status as “an independent, autonomous and non-normative international organization in the working relationship with the United Nations”. The IOM would need to adopt formally the UN normative framework on human rights and ensure strong mechanisms for civil society engagement.