US pulls out of UN pledge to protect migrants as Europe struggles with refugee tide

US pulls out of UN pledge to protect migrants as Europe struggles with refugee tide
Washington has repudiated a UN pledge to protect the rights of migrants regardless of their legal status. The agreement is incompatible with the country’s sovereignty and the Trump administration’s views on immigration, US envoy Nikki Haley said.

In a statement released on Saturday, Ambassador Haley said President Donald Trump “determined that the US would end its participation in the process” known as the New York Declaration for Refugees and Migrants. Despite former president Barack Obama having signed the declaration, Washington’s involvement is an affront to the American idea of sovereignty, she said.

“The New York Declaration contains numerous provisions that are inconsistent with US immigration and refugee polices and the Trump Administration’s immigration principles,” the statement claimed, adding that the document’s “global approach... is simply not compatible with the US’ sovereignty.”

In September 2016, 193 member states of the United Nations adopted the declaration, which pledges to protect the rights and freedoms of migrants “regardless of their migratory status.” The non-binding agreement also called on signatory states to facilitate migrant integration into society and combat discrimination in all its forms. The New York Declaration was meant to pave the way for the adoption of a global compact for migration in 2018.

In her statement announcing Washington’s withdrawal from the landmark initiative, Haley said that domestic policy matters such as treatment of migrants “must always be made by Americans and Americans alone.” Claiming that “no country has done more than the US” for the displaced globally, she stated: “We will decide how best to control our borders and who will be allowed to enter our country.”

In September, the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) was scrapped by Trump, giving Congress six months to pass a law regulating the status of some 700,000 immigrants who came to the US illegally as minors. The Trump administration is also moving forward with plans to expand the US-Mexico border wall. In October, a House panel approved legislation to provide a total of $15 billion for the construction of the wall along the border.

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Having boasted of America’s “long-standing moral leadership” in providing aid to migrants all over the world, in her statement Haley vowed that Washington’s “generosity will continue,” although she didn’t specify how the US was alleviating Europe’s migrant crisis.

The Trump administration has made combatting illegal immigration a central theme of its domestic policy. In his first weeks in office, Trump signed an executive order temporarily banning the citizens of Syria and six other Muslim-majority countries from entering the US. Back then, UN agencies issued a joint statement calling on Washington to continue letting refugees into the US, while many prominent figures across the globe, including world leaders spoke out against the order. Trump’s decision has also led to widespread protests internationally.

The executive order has led many to argue that while Trump himself wasn’t responsible for the regime change wars – particularly in the Middle East – which largely caused the migrant crisis, he should at least acknowledge that his country has a moral obligation to take in refugees from the destabilized nations. Vienna has openly criticized Washington, with Austrian Chancellor Christian Kern saying the US shares responsibility for the migrant crisis.

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“There is no doubt that America shares responsibility for the refugee flows by the way it intervened militarily,” the official said. Washington’s moves to avoid responsibility were “unacceptable for the international community,” he added.

Last month, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi announced that the number of people who had been forced to leave their homes had increased to almost 66 million worldwide, compared with 42 million in 2009. Speaking before the UN Security Council, he said that this includes 17.2 million refugees “under UNHCR’s responsibility,” registering a 70 percent increase since then. In Syria alone, 11 million people have been forcibly displaced – and with almost the same number of refugees from neighboring Iraq, the two Middle Eastern nations account for one-quarter of the global number.

The UN official cited “a succession of major new crises” as the cause behind the “massive displacement across virtually all regions,” saying that the crises in Libya, Ukraine and Yemen have significantly exacerbated the situation. Meanwhile, the head of the UN World Food Program (WFP), David Beasley has recently warned that there is a clear link between migration and hunger. The WFP director said that a second wave of migration might hit the west, as the situation in refugee camps in Africa and the Middle East is only getting worse.