Signing United Nations Compact Could Only Undermine Government’s Commitment To Control And Reduce Immigration

The UK Government should make it clear that it will not sign the prospective United Nations ‘Global Compact on Migration for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration’. If they have any regard for their election promises it would be entirely hypocritical to do so.

The accord would commit signatories to the goal of ‘enhanc[ing] availability and flexibility of pathways for regular migration’ – a pledge that would stand in direct contradiction to the government’s three election manifesto commitments to reduce the level of net migration from the current 270,000 per year to less than 100,000 – a goal that polling suggests is still supported by nearly three-quarters of the public.

In November 2017, the UK government said that the new Compact should include a commitment that states ‘must maintain the right and obligation of all states to control their borders’, that states ‘need to improve the ways we distinguish between refugees fleeing persecution and economic migrants’ and that ‘the international community must help ensure refugees seek asylum in the first country that can offer protection’. These were all very sensible suggestions.

However, the final text of the Compact, which would not be legally binding, does not include these commitments, apart from making the obvious admission that states have a ‘sovereign right to determine their national migration policy… in conformity with international law’. The word ‘control’ does not appear anywhere in the final version of the document.

The text of the prospective agreement does contain a number of worthy ideas (for example, aiming at the eradication of human trafficking and improvement of migrants’ documentation).

However, the document focuses on ‘positive impacts’ of immigration without even acknowledging that mass immigration can also lead to real costs for host communities – something the UK’s Migration Advisory Committee recognised in September 2018, for instance in its finding that the average non-EU migrant contributed around £840 less to public finances than the average adult resident in the UK in 2016/17, while non-EEA migrants paid £9bn less in taxes than they received in benefits and services in the same year (see p.73 of its recent report).

The process to develop the compact started in April 2017. According to the UN, it would be ‘the first-ever UN global agreement on a common approach to international migration in all its dimensions’. The text of the Global Compact was finalised in July 2018 and formal adoption is set for this December in Morocco.

The Compact is not formally linked to the separate Euro-African Dialogue on Migration and Development (Rabat Process). The UK signed up to the Marrakesh Political Declaration, which resulted from this dialogue, in May 2018. The Rabat process partners have previously agreed to “promote the mobility of certain categories of travellers (in particular, businessmen and businesswomen, young professionals or researchers) between European and North, West and Central African countries”.

If such flows were limited to this particular type of immigration they could benefit the UK economically. However, as the text of Objective Five of the separate Global Compact below makes clear, the UN would like such flows to be supplemented with enhanced family immigration, which is much less likely to represent a fiscal boon to the host nation.

Notwithstanding the debate about finances, polling by Demos published in Spring 2018 found that the public think that immigration is making British society more divided.

Nor do voters support the huge increase in congestion and ongoing loss of green countryside that is the corollary of a rapid rate of population growth nearly equal to the addition of the equivalent of the population of Birmingham every three years as the result of new migrants and their UK-born children.

Such population growth is unsustainable and immigration, which accounts for 80% of it, should be reined in.

The UN appears to imply that increasing regular immigration levels may reduce the level of illegal immigration. However, this is implausible. A sizeable reduction in immigration commensurate with what the broad mass of the public wish to see, including the 55% of 18-24 year olds who wish to see net migration reduced to the tens of thousands, would require reductions in both the scale of regular immigration (running at an average of a quarter of a million per year) as well as illegal immigration.

In a separate paper, we estimated a net addition of at least 70,000 people per year to the million or so illegal migrants who are thought to be in the UK already.

One recent survey found that more of the public said the impact of immigration on the UK had been negative than positive (National Conversation, p.254). Nearly two-thirds of respondents told a separate pollster that they think immigration levels have been too high over the past decade (YouGov).

Signing up to the Compact would be a huge slap in the face of voters who, in 2017, were specifically promised a reduction in the level of non-EU immigration in the Conservative Party’s election manifesto (see p.54).

The Compact appears to have been drafted by diplomats whose aim seems to be to ‘normalise’ mass immigration from the developing world to the West at a time when the public are very clear that they find the scale and pace of such flows to be unsustainable and unacceptable.

The Government needs to reconnect with voters and demonstrate that they are serious about honouring their election promise.

A total of 12 countries have so far expressed opposition to the Compact, including Hungary, Austria, Poland, the Czech Republic, Croatia, Bulgaria, Slovakia, Slovenia, Australia, Switzerland, Israel and the United States.

Commenting, Alp Mehmet, Vice Chairman of Migration Watch UK, said: “The Compact appears to have been drafted by diplomats whose aim seems to be to ‘normalise’ mass immigration from the developing world to the West at a time when the public are very clear that they find the scale and pace of such flows to be unsustainable and unacceptable.”


  1. Lord Green of Deddington, Chairman of Migration Watch UK, has submitted parliamentary questions on this topic (see here and here). We look forward to the Government’s response.
  2. See the text of Objective 5 of the ‘UN Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration’ below:

Objective 5

Enhance availability and flexibility of pathways for regular migration

We commit to adapt options and pathways for regular migration in a manner that facilitates labour mobility and decent work reflecting demographic and labour market realities, optimizes education opportunities, upholds the right to family life, and responds to the needs of migrants in a situation of vulnerability, with a view to expanding and diversifying availability of pathways for safe, orderly and regular migration. To realize this commitment, we will draw from the following actions:

  1. Develop human rights-based and gender-responsive bilateral, regional and multilateral labour mobility agreements with sector-specific standard terms of employment in cooperation with relevant stakeholders, drawing on relevant ILO standards, guidelines and principles, in compliance with international human rights and labour law
  2. Facilitate regional and cross-regional labour mobility through international and bilateral cooperation arrangements, such as free movement regimes, visa liberalization or multiple country visas, and labour mobility cooperation frameworks, in accordance with national priorities, local market needs and skills supply
  3. Review and revise existing options and pathways for regular migration, with a view to optimize skills matching in labour markets, address demographic realities and development challenges and opportunities, in accordance with local and national labour market demands and skills supply, in consultation with the private sector and other relevant stakeholders
  4. Develop flexible, rights-based and gender-responsive labour mobility schemes for migrants, in accordance with local and national labour market needs and skills supply at all skills levels, including temporary, seasonal, circular, and fast-track programmes in areas of labour shortages, by providing flexible, convertible and non-discriminatory visa and permit options, such as for permanent and temporary work, multiple-entry study, business, visit, investment and entrepreneurship
  5. Promote effective skills matching in the national economy by involving local authorities and other relevant stakeholders, particularly the private sector and trade unions, in the analysis of the local labour market, identification of skills gaps, definition of required skills profiles, and evaluation of the efficacy of labour migration policies, in order to ensure market responsive contractual labour mobility through regular pathways
  6. Foster efficient and effective skills-matching programmes by reducing visa and permit processing timeframes for standard employment authorizations, and by offering accelerated and facilitated visa and permit processing for employers with a track record of compliance
  7. Develop or build on existing national and regional practices for admission and stay of appropriate duration based on compassionate, humanitarian or other considerations for migrants compelled to leave their countries of origin, due to sudden-onset natural disasters and other precarious situations, such as by providing humanitarian visas, private sponsorships, access to education for children, and temporary work permits, while adaptation in or return to their country of origin is not possible
  8. Cooperate to identify, develop and strengthen solutions for migrants compelled to leave their countries of origin due to slow-onset natural disasters, the adverse effects of climate change, and environmental degradation, such as desertification, land degradation, drought and sea level rise, including by devising planned relocation and visa options, in cases where adaptation in or return to their country of origin is not possible
  9. Facilitate access to procedures for family reunification for migrants at all skills levels through appropriate measures that promote the realization of the right to family life and the best interests of the child, including by reviewing and revising applicable requirements, such as on income, language proficiency, length of stay, work authorization, and access to social security and services
  10. Expand available options for academic mobility, including through bilateral and multilateral agreements that facilitate academic exchanges, such as scholarships for students and academic professionals, visiting professorships, joint training programmes, and international research opportunities, in cooperation with academic institutions and other relevant stakeholders

27th November 2018 - Migration Trends, Policy

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