Trump boycotts UN migration plans

Safya Khan-Ruf - 06 12 17

This decision is likely to please “America First” Trump voters but has already prompted criticism from other UN member states.

Vienna has openly criticised the decision, with Austrian Chancellor Christian Kern saying the US shares responsibility for the migrant situation.

The process of creating a more human global strategy on migration was considered to ‘interfere’ with American sovereignty and run counter to US immigration policies, according to Nikki Haley, the US ambassador to the UN.

Haley informed Antonio Guterres, UN Secretary General, during the weekend that President Donald Trump was not willing to continue committing to a UN migration strategy.

Haley’s statement reads that Trump is “determined that the US would end participation” in the New York Declaration for Refugees and Migrants, despite former president Barack Obama having signed the declaration while still in office.

The non-binding agreement called on states to facilitate migrant integration into society, to combat discrimination and to protect the rights and freedoms of migrants “regardless of their migratory status”.

The New York Declaration was adopted by 193 UN member states and was meant to set a path for a global migration in 2018.

Haley said on Saturday that domestic policy matters such as treatment of migrants “must always be made by Americans and Americans alone” and that “no country has done more than the US” for the globally displaced.

She added that Washington’s “generosity will continue” when it came to helping migrants, but did not give any specific plans for aiding Europe with its refugee or migrant situation.

Haley was the lone voice of dissent in the decision to pull out, according to diplomatic sources. She argued that the US had a better shot at influencing the outcome of the negotiations if it participated in the process. However, Trump overruled her.


Trump has emphasised the importance of national security, immigration control and sovereignty since running for office and has downplayed the role of large international agreements.

“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 said.

Miroslav Lajčák, president of the U.N. General Assembly, expressed disappointment and regret at Trump’s decision, saying in a statement that no single country can “manage international migration on its own”.

However, according to The Guardian’s diplomatic editor, Patrick Wintour, President Trump’s decision to withdraw the United States from the compact “is more symbolic than practical” as the agreement is not meant to dictate a member state’s policies or indeed even be legally binding.

The U.S. withdrawal came just before the Monday start of a global conference on migration in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico. It is not the first step the Trump Administration has taken against migration.

Pulling back

Last September, the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) was scrapped by Trump, giving Congress six months to regulate the status of more than 700,000 immigrants who came to the US illegally as minors.

The Trump Administration is also moving forwards in building the promised US-Mexico wall, with $15 billion funding approved by a House panel.

The Administration has taken a hard line to combat illegal immigration and within his first weeks in office, Trump signed an executive order temporarily banning citizens of Syria and six other Muslim-majority countries from entering the US.

UN agencies had issued a statement calling on Washington to continue letting refugees into the US and many prominent figures across the world spoke out against the order.

Trump’s actions in withdrawing the US from crucial international organisations and obligations reflect a dangerous mix of isolationism and national chauvinism.

It has also allowed other countries such as China to take the lead on important issues such as climate change. While the US withdrew from the Paris Climate accords earlier this year, China strengthened its commitment alongside European partners and has been defending collaborative, rules-based order.


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