Switzerland to vote in favour of global compact on refugees

The pact envisages reducing the pressure on host countries like Uganda, Lebanon, Turkey and Bangladesh. Keystone

The Swiss Federal Council has approved voting in favour of a United Nations resolution that calls for better international cooperation in supporting refugees. Parliamentarians had earlier stalled Swiss endorsement of a UN migration pact. 

This content was published on December 7, 2018 - 20:57

The refugee compact is based on the New York Declaration adopted by the UN General Assembly in 2016. This eventually led to the development of two global frameworks: the global compact for migration and the global compact on refugees. Switzerland has not yet signed the former after opposition from parliamentarians. On Friday, the government confirmed its willingness to sign the latter. The refugee compact will focus on four areas: easing pressure on countries hosting refugees, support such countries in integrating refugees, equitable sharing of the refugee burden and encouraging the return of refugees to their homelands where possible. 

“The global compact on refugees thus reaffirms the existing international refugee protection regime, whereas the global compact for migration seeks to improve global coordination in migration matters and was established through intergovernmental negotiations,” said the government in a statement. 

Another difference between the two global impacts is the process of adoption. The global compact on refugees was drawn up by the office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) after consulting with UN member states. “Instead of being adopted at an intergovernmental conference, it will therefore simply be ‘endorsed’ by the General Assembly in conjunction with its annual resolution on the work of the UNHCR.” 

According to the Federal Council, the refugee compact is compatible with Switzerland’s existing international commitments with one exception: it requires the ratification of the 1961 Convention on the Reduction of Statelessness, which Switzerland hasn’t done. 

“Given that the global compact on refugees is not legally binding, Switzerland would not be under any additional obligation,” says the Federal Council adding that current Swiss legislation already affords extensive protections to stateless persons. 

The Federal Council has asked the foreign ministry to instruct Switzerland's permanent mission in New York to vote in favour of the resolution.

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