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UN treaty of migration: What was agreed

People walk in a caravan of migrants en route to the US in El Salvador.
People walk in a caravan of migrants en route to the US in El Salvador. Copyright REUTERS/Jose Cabezas
Copyright REUTERS/Jose Cabezas
By Alice Tidey
Published on Updated
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Some 190 countries are scheduled to ratify the treaty in December to make regular migration safe and more orderly around the world. Euronews takes a look at what they are committing to.


More than 190 countries agreed to coordinate their efforts to make migration safe and more orderly earlier this year, with a treaty the United Nations hailed as a "milestone."

The UN's Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration treaty was agreed on by 192 countries in July 2018 and is scheduled to be ratified in December.

The 34-page text aims to provide a global cooperative framework for migrants — not refugees, who fall under an existing international legal framework — through 23 different objectives.

It is non-legally binding — meaning countries who ratify it are not obliged to implement all the measures and are unlikely to face sanctions if they fail to do so — and makes clear that countries retain their sovereign right to "determine their national migration policy" in accordance with international law.

Still, several nations have refused to join it or pulled out including the United States, Hungary and Austria over concerns it would blur the line between legal and illegal migration.

Euronews takes a closer look at the Global Compact and what it means for signatory countries.


A lot of the treaty deals with the sharing of information between the different stakeholders including states, NGOs, migrants and citizens of destination countries.

The different nations, for instance, agreed to collect and share data on international migration to assess key migration trends, harmonise their methodologies and develop evidence-based policies.

They also commit to strengthen their efforts to provide, make available and disseminate accurate, timely and transparent information about regular migration such as country-specific immigration laws and policies, visa requirements and fees.

Migrants, the treaty says, should also be told about their rights about assistance and should be provided upon arrival at their destination with the information they need to integrate as swiftly as possible in their new society such as how to obtain work and residents permits.

Under the treaty, countries also agreed to collect and use data on the effects and benefits of migration, as well as the contributions of migrants and diasporas to sustainable development — the aim being to reduce discrimination against migrants.

Reducing departures

A number of objectives listed in the treaty aim to curb the number of departures, with countries agreeing, for instance, to invest in programmes to minimise the adverse drivers and structural factors that compel people to leave their countries.

Such programmes include those that aim to eradicate poverty, minimise the effects of climate change, empower girls and improve education, food security and rule of law.

Enabling a faster, safer and cheaper transfer of remittances is also one of the main objectives to help reduce migration. The money that migrants send back home is seen as a big boost to the sustainable development of countries.


The different stakeholders also agreed to cooperate to reduce vulnerabilities as migrants travel from their country of origin to their destination.


This includes strengthening the transnational response to smuggling of migrants, taking legislative or other measures to eradicate trafficking in people, and managing borders in a coordinated manner by promoting bilateral and regional cooperation.

Finally, the treaty demands nations cooperate through joint search and rescue operations to save lives and prevent migrant deaths or injuries.

Host nations

Every country — whether those crossed as part of the journey or the destination — also agreed to the dignified treatment of migrants by limiting the use of immigration detention and ensuring that migrants can easily access basic services.

Lastly, the signatories agreed to facilitate fair and ethical recruitment policies to ensure decent work by for instance, developing bilateral, regional and multilateral labour mobility agreements.

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