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Norway joins UN Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration

‘Migration poses a major challenge to countries worldwide. For this reason, we need a common basis for political efforts to deal with migration more effectively. There is broad agreement that irregular migration must be more effectively managed and controlled,’ said Prime Minister Erna Solberg.

There are currently 258 million international migrants in the world. Poorly regulated migration is creating considerable challenges. Increased flows of irregular migrants, for example as a result of illegal border crossings or a lack of adequate documentation, are high on the political agenda in many parts of the world. With the challenges of population growth, climate change, and the effects of wars and conflicts, the international community needs an agreed set of rules for recipient countries, transit countries, and countries of origin.

‘The Government has made its views clear in the negotiations in the UN on the Global Compact. We have emphasised the need to put in place effective return arrangements, and stressed that we must still be able to distinguish betweenregular and irregular migrants. The Compact is a non-legally binding framework, and national authorities will retain control over their own immigration policies,’ said Minister of Foreign Affairs Ine Eriksen Søreide, of the Conservative Party.

‘We are pleased that many of our priorities have been taken into consideration. However, we would have liked the Global Compact to have gone even further in certain areas, for example on the issues of return and the portability of social security benefits. Nonetheless, the Global Compact is what the international community has managed to agree on, and it will provide a better basis for further cooperation. Closer cooperation with countries of origin will facilitate our work to return migrants who do not have a legal right to stay in Norway’ said Ms Solberg.

Ms Solberg stressed that Norway attaches importance to the Global Compact having broad international support. All the Nordic countries, as well as close partner countries such as Germany and the UK, are intending to join the Compact.

In the negotiations in Norway’s coalition Government, the Progress Party did not gain acceptance for its primary position, that Norway should not join the Global Compact.

‘For the Progress Party, it is essential that the Government retains all instruments at its disposal for controlling immigration. It is not yet clear what pressure we will be exposing Norway to by joining the Compact. In the Progress Party’s view, the Government should therefore take a precautionary approach, and not join the Compact. Although the Compact states that countries’ freedom of action with regard to their national migration policy will not be restricted, both the UN and other countries may find points in the Compact that can be used to put pressure on our immigration policy. In our view, it is important to highlight this uncertainty by expressing our dissent,’ said Minister of Finance Siv Jensen, of the Progress Party.

Ms Jensen stressed that, once the Government joins the Global Compact, it will be important for the Progress Party that it is used to promote Norwegian interests, such as ensuring swift return and cooperation with countries of origin.

‘This will make it possible to stop the flow of migrants from Africa to Europe. We must continue to ensure that Norway’s immigration policy is strict but responsible,’ said Ms Jensen.

The question of joining the Global Compact is being considered through regular procedures, and will therefore not be decided in the Council of State. If the matter had been considered by the Council of State, the Progress Party would have formally dissented, as it has done on certain issues previously.

‘Global migration will be one of the biggest challenges facing the world in the coming years, and it is vital that we find solutions together with other countries. That is why the UN Global Compact is important. It is natural for Norway to be a part of this international cooperation, both to take our share of a global responsibility, and in order to maintain control over our borders,’ said Minister of Culture Trine Skei Grande, of the Liberal Party.

A non-legally binding framework
The Global Compact for migration is non-legally binding. Instead, it emphasises that each individual country has the sovereign right to determine its national migration policy and the rules for which foreign nationals are to be granted entry and residence. The Compact sets out a number of objectives for improved migration management, and concrete actions to promote their realisation. The countries that join the Global Compact make a political commitment to the overall objectives. Many of the concrete actions are intended for countries that have not yet developed adequate systems for dealing with migration. When determining which concrete actions are relevant, an individual country will have to consider its own situation. It is to a large extent up to each country to decide which of the concrete actions to implement.

‘Norway already has sound mechanisms in place for dealing with migration. For this reason, many of the concrete actions will not be relevant for us. We will continue to ensure well-regulated and controlled immigration to Norway, and will make our own decisions about who is to be granted residence. Our understanding is that we are not making any commitment to liberalise our immigration policy,’ said Minister of Justice, Public Security and Immigration Tor Mikkel Wara, of the Progress Party.

The aim of the Global Compact is to make sure that today’s global migration challenges are dealt with more effectively. A crucial element in Norway’s decision to join the Compact is that it is designed to ensure that all international migration takes place in a legal and orderly manner. The Global Compact provides a framework for closer cooperation with countries of origin. This is important for ensuring the return of migrants who are not granted residence in Norway.

Norway will make statement in explanation of vote
Norway will join the Global Compact for Migration, but considers it necessary to make clear how it interprets the text on a number of points. Norway will do so in the form of a statement to the UN in explanation of vote.

  • The Global Compact allows individual countries to regulate immigration independently. The Compact recognises the fact that all migrants, both regular and irregular, have fundamental rights that must be fully respected, but it also allows countries to reserve certain rights and social security benefits for regular migrants.
  • The aim of the Global Compact is to ensure that countries have sound and flexible legislation for regular migration. This applies both to labour migrants and to family reunification. Norway’s position is that existing Norwegian legislation meets the needs for foreign labour, and is in accordance with the provisions of international law relating to the right to family life. In our view, the Global Compact does not call for any changes to Norwegian legislation in these areas.
  • The Global Compact recognises that countries at times have to use enforcement measures to control migration. Norway’s position is that the detention of foreign nationals, including minors, may be necessary in some cases, but only as a last resort and for the shortest possible period of time.
  • The Global Compact is based on the principle that all countries have an obligation under international law to readmit their own nationals who have been refused residence in other countries, and that countries have a political obligation to cooperate on readmission. Readmission agreements are mentioned as a good example of a measure to achieve the objective improved cooperation on return and readmission. Norway will make active use of this point in the Global Compact.
  • According to the Global Compact, countries should make it possible for migrants to make use of earned benefits if they choose to move to other countries. In many countries, migrants have very limited social security entitlements and benefits, and there are strict rules for their portability. Norway considers it unreasonable to interpret the Global Compact in such a way that the portability of Norwegian benefits for migrants is to be expanded.

On 10 December, Norway will take part in the Intergovernmental Conference to Adopt the Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration, in Marrakech, Morocco. State Secretary in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs Marianne Hagen will represent Norway at the Conference.

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