Why the N-VA opposes the Marrakech Compact for Migration

8 December 2018

The N-VA’s opposition to the UN Compact for Migration is a matter of principle. Who decides on our democracy? Who has the final say on our migration policy? The N-VA is of the opinion that with the migration pact we are relinquishing an important part of our sovereignty. That is why we do not want the Belgian Government to express its support for this pact in Marrakech.

What is the UN Compact for Migration?

It is officially called the Global Compact for Migration. The Compact is a declaration of intent on how the Member States of the United Nations should deal with migration. You can download the text here.

What are the objections of the N-VA?

The N-VA considers the UN migration pact to be in conflict with our vision on migration. But what are the exact contents of the pact? Below you will find our 5 main objections, with links to the original text, and what they mean for our society. Judge for yourself.

1. The UN Compact for Migration wants access to basic social services, also for illegal migrants.

What does the text say?
Objective 15 of the compact states that all migrants must have access to basic social services, regardless of their residence status. It does not state that countries may decide what comprises these basic services, only that they can offer more services to legal migrants and their own citizens. Illegal migrants currently only receive urgent medical care. The pact does not define what exactly those basic social services are, but it does require specific commitments, such as establishing “service points”. In addition, it advocates mandating human rights institutes to investigate complaints by migrants and guaranteeing them access to a judge in order to enforce “basic services”.

What does that mean?

Because the stipulation is so vague, it opens the door to interpretation by a judge. Do basic services mean those currently enjoyed by migrants? Or do they comprise all rights that are summed up in other UN treaties? Do they mean material shelter or, if that is absent, welfare payments? This vagueness provides judges a free pass to decide themselves what basic services are.





2. The UN migration compact advocates relaxing procedures for family reunification

What does the text say?
Point 21 of the compact contains a commitment for easier access to family reunification procedures. The pact also regulates very specifically how that should take place: by revising the conditions concerning income, language and residence. Access to basic social services and Social security Social security is currently managed at the Federal level in Belgium. The most important pillars of Belgian social security are: sickness and invalidity insurance (NIDHI), pensions, unemployment insurance and child allowances. In addition, occupational illness, occupational accidents and annual holidays are dealt with at this level. Some Flemish parties have been campaigning for years for (large parts of) social security to be transferred to the Regions and Communities. social security must also be guaranteed for those who engage in family reunification.

What does that mean?

The N-VA wants stricter rules on family reunification. Family reunification remains the number-one migration channel into Belgium. At the initiative of the N-VA, the law on family reunification was made stricter in 2011, among other things by imposing a minimum income condition. The current European directive is too broad and thus does not work. Lawyers will invoke the commitments in the compact to abolish “obstacles” directly before the Council for Alien Law Litigation, especially the French-speaking division.






3. The UN migration compact aims to make it more difficult to detain illegal migrants and send them back

What does the text say?
Objective 13 requires detention of illegal migrants to be as short as possible and to be used only as a last resort. Regardless of whether it concerns open or closed centres and regardless of whether detention takes place upon arrival, during transit or upon repatriation. Just like in case of family reunification, the compact requires countries to revise their laws regarding the detention of illegal migrants and to prioritise alternatives.

In addition, objective 13 contains the commitment to work towards ending the detention of minors, and thus families, in detention centres.

Under point 27 the Global Compact also requires a commitment to revise the sanctions linked to illegal entry and residence.

More generally, the text pays little attention to the responsibilities of the countries of origin regarding repatriation. The responsibility of illegal migrants and those who have exhausted all legal remedies to voluntarily return to their home country also receives little attention.

What does that mean?

No credible repatriation policy is possible without detention, which means no control of our borders. This specifically means closing the detention units at the 127bis centre in Steenokkerzeel and the de facto immunity of families, which are difficult to repatriate.

As far as the N-VA is concerned, detention remains the final element of our migration policy, and therefore we wish to continue aiming at increasing repatriation capacity through detention centres. Decisions to send illegal migrants and those who have exhausted all legal remedies to detention centres are not taken lightly, especially not when minors are involved.

In the discussion about transit migrants, the N-VA also considers it essential that illegal migrants who ignore the order to leave Belgian territory can be prosecuted in criminal proceedings.










4. The UN migration compact focuses on conserving the own culture of the migrant and sees migration exclusively as something positive

What does the text say?
The migration compact is based on a very positive view on migration: “it is a source of prosperity, innovation and sustainable development in our globalised world”. Nowhere does the text mention the dangers of illegal migration, nor the possible negative impact on the social, economic and cultural fabric in countries accepting migrants.

The compact requires commitments to “culturally-sensitive service delivery”, commitments to facilitate political participation of migrants in their country of origin, to organise multicultural festivals, to increase the portability of social security benefits, and to make it easier to send money back. The pact even asks for positive reporting on migration by the media.

The pact acknowledges that national states have the authority to distinguish between “regular and irregular”, but elsewhere in the text, this distinction is not sufficiently made. Thus, the Global Compact reads like a catalogue of rights, also for illegal immigrants.

What does that mean?

Migration can be done in a positive way, and countries such as Canada and Australia are succeeding in this; we wish to follow their example. But migration is certainly not a one-sidedly positive story: illegal migration is life-threatening, with migrants exposing themselves to exploitation and abuse. Often, minors are sent ahead for the rest of the family to follow later. Creating awareness of the dangers and discouraging illegal migration must therefore not be absent from this migration compact.

A realistic image of migration is essential for the N-VA: the migration waves from Africa are currently growing in strength because average incomes are increasing, meaning unskilled migrants can also save up the money required for the crossing. But our labour market does not provide enough opportunities for unskilled migrants who do not speak the language. Every country must continue to make its own assessments regarding labour migration.












5. The UN migration compact pleads for the regularisation of illegal migrants

What does the text say?
Under point 23 the migration compact asks for a commitment to provide illegal migrants access to an individual regularisation procedure, based on “clear and unambiguous criteria”.

What does that mean?

While this passage sounds very reasonable at first glance, it is a dream of the open border lobby that even the PS has been unable to achieve. After all, objective regularisation criteria in the law imply a subjective ‘right’ to regularisation, enforceable in court, if they are met.

However, regularisation is currently strictly a question of goodwill, with the authority lying completely with the government. And it should stay that way. Turning regularisation into a right encourages illegal migration and illegal residence. We must never allow that. Illegal residence is not a temporary stay in a temporary grey area, but a crime.









The UN Compact for Migration is non-binding. Why does the N-VA not support it then?

With the UN Compact for Migration, we are handing over self-determination of our migration policy to an unelected international bureaucracy. Legal scholars warn: there is a danger that activists and NGOs will use the pact to make it binding through jurisprudence, given that it can be invoked as ‘soft law’ before Belgian courts. In addition, the pact contains a follow-up mechanism, whereby the UN will monitor our country’s compliance with the pact. The N-VA does not want to surrender that much sovereignty. Our house of democracy is located in Brussels and not in Marrakech, New York or Strasbourg.

What do the other countries say?

Two of the three continents that receive migrants have already dropped out. The United States and Australia are not participating. (**) Only Europe is still participating as a receiving continent, and only half of it. Austria, Italy, Poland, Hungary, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Latvia and Bulgaria are not participating. So no one is forcing our country to go. Withdrawing brings with it no international stigma.

Is the N-VA against migration?

No. The N-VA wants to turn migration into a positive story. To this end, the N-VA wants a regulated migration policy aimed at labour, with clear conditions, tightened family reunification rules, no direct access to our social security and no illegality. We want to control and manage migration to our country so that it takes into account our cultural, economic and social capacity and strengthens rather than weakens our society.


The N-VA wants to strengthen democratic control over our migration policy. This migration pact is at odds with what the population wants and with the policies that we want to implement. That is a matter of principle for us, and that is why the N-VA is opposed to the UN Compact for Migration.

(**) update 11/12/2018: In the meantime, Chile and Brazil have also dissociated from the UN Compact.

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