U.N. Bodies Take On Forced Migration, Member States Invite Controversy

BY JEREMY HOLT, Le Figaro & KATIE JONES, The Boston Globe

The United Nations has directed its International Organization for Migration (I.O.M.) and High Commissioner for Refugees (U.N.H.C.R.) components to address salient issues surrounding global forced migration. The developments take place in the years following refugee crises around the world, from the Democratic Republic of the Congo to the Sahel countries to Syria, which has been labelled the worst refugee situation since World War II. The U.N. delegated the interweaving subjects of human trafficking and refugee education to the I.O.M. and the U.N.H.C.R., respectively.

Blocs in both organizations have begun proposing their ideas in working papers. While member nations agree on the international community’s responsibility to ensure the safety of refugees, it has become evident that a number of states are doing all they can to alleviate their own burdens of accepting and providing for them. These stances of national interest have appeared — both implicitly and not — in the drafts of working papers.

In one glaring example, a U.N.H.C.R. working paper proposed by a bloc which includes France advocates for teaching systems powered by artificial intelligence which “should be tailored made [sic] … by France’s award winning EdTech startup Domoscio.” In a press conference, Le Figaro asked the French delegate if she or the French state had any ulterior motives in pushing Domoscio in such glowing terms. The delegate declined to address the question directly.

In the same press conference, Le Figaro asked the delegate of the United States if measures designed to boost refugees’ educational infrastructure in developing countries would be used to shift migrant flows away from the U.S. The American delegate responded, “American foreign policy is about freedom, and a country can only be free if the individual is free, and Epictetus said that only the educated are free … so, yeah.” The delegate had previously emphasized the U.S.’s status as the U.N.H.C.R.’s largest funder, a stance echoed by the American delegation to the I.O.M. When asked to confirm or deny the isolationist stance articulated by the U.N.H.C.R. delegate, the I.O.M. delegation declined to address the question directly.

The U.N.H.C.R. delegate from Poland had previously told a Le Figaro reporter that Poland wanted to decrease its incoming migrant flow by use of an “integration through examination” solution that filters out all but the most highly skilled and intelligent migrants. Poland did not elaborate where the remainder of the migrants would go.

In the I.O.M., delegations are primarily looking to create solutions for refugees and other victims of human trafficking. The Boston Globe partnered with Le Figaro to conduct a press conference that would establish lines in the sand on why each working paper is different.

The Boston Globe has confirmed that the United States is a “yes” on distributing civilian business information with international identities in efforts to stop human trafficking. This notion is alarming, as the United States has typically valued the protection and security of its citizens.

In the press conference the United States said, “We want to hold these corporations financially accountable and they need to be held accountable for the labor they are using — this will avoid the use of cheap labor that is the result of trafficking.”

The Delegation of the United States.

In response, The Boston Globe asked, “The United States is OK with providing private citizen business information to international entities?”

After poking and prodding, the delegation of the United States admitted yes, that it would support supplying private information on citizen activities to international entities if it meant halting human trafficking. This is a troubling statement, and it begs the question of whether this is Constitutionally legal for the United States.

Additionally, several delegations within the I.O.M. are advocating for “harsher punishments” for those convicted of smuggling and trafficking.

In several nations, including Canada and the Philippines, laws dictate a life imprisonment sentence for criminals of trafficking and smuggling. When asked what constitutes a “harsher punishment” than life imprisonment, there was a sense of vagueness and confusion among the delegates on the working paper (Better Together).

“We want all states to be at the level of imprisonment as a life sentence. It’s what we believe in, and it’s the only solution to punish smugglers,” said the delegation of Canada.

Statistics collected by The Boston Globe show a large number of prisons across the world are directly violating the International Declaration of Human Rights. For developed nations, a life sentence may mean a decent jail cell with semi-decent food. For prisons with a lack of resources and security, a life imprisonment for smuggling may violate the declarations definition of “cruel, inhuman punishment”.

This begs the question — does Canada, along with other nations in the Better Together bloc plan to violate the exact Declaration that they have signed and agreed to uphold and protect? The delegates of the I.O.M. have developed a lack of specificity in their working papers, which signals a call for concern, especially for citizens of the United States.

As human rights flounder against national interests in the subcommittees of the U.N., one recalls the words of H.N.M.U.N. Secretary-General Antonio J. Soriano at the opening ceremony of the current session: “I wish the rest of the world could see what happens in these halls over the next four days.” Amid cynicism at the U.N., one wonders if Soriano’s wishes are misplaced.


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