Countries detail plans after adopting UN migration accord

Government envoys and advocacy groups worked Tuesday to flesh out and refine a migration policy blueprint adopted by most United Nations countries, while one of the supporting states said it wanted to "clarify" its position because of perceived ambiguities in the pact opposed by several member nations.

The Global Compact for Migration is aimed at making mass migration safer, more orderly and more humane. The first international accord of its kind, it was approved Monday by 164 U.N. members at a conference in Marrakech, Morocco. At least 16 countries have rebuffed or hesitated to become signatories.

International Organization for Migration Director-General Antonio Vitorino, hailed the compact's approval as a "historic achievement." Countries must now put the accord to work at the national level, Vitorino said, noting that "no one size fits all" approach works for managing migration.

The accord, in some ways, got off to a bumpy start — with at least one rich Western country that supported it a day earlier expressing second thoughts.

"Norway will join the Global Compact for Migration, but due to the ambiguity of the text, we find it necessary to clarify our position on certain points," Norwegian State Secretary for Foreign Affairs Marianne Hagen said.

One section of the text advises that the "rights and best interests" of children should be protected and respected at all times, including "by working to end the practice of child detention in the context of international migration."

Hagen said: "Norway's position is that the detention of foreign nationals may be necessary in some cases, also for minors, but then only as a last resort and for the shortest possible period of time."

The issue continued to stir tensions elsewhere. Brazil's incoming foreign minister said late Monday the new government would pull out of the pact, which also prompted sparring in the French parliament Tuesday.

One lawmaker from France's far-right National Rally party denounced backers of the migration compact as "traitors of Marrakech" while another from President Emmanuel Macron's centrist party decried misinformation on social media implying the pact would force France to take in masses of migrants.

But Brazil's incoming foreign minister, Ernesto Araujo, said Latin America's biggest country would withdraw from the compact right-wing President-elect Jair Bolsonaro takes office in January. Araujo tweeted the reason was "because immigration cannot be dealt with as a global issue, but according to each country's reality and sovereignty."

U.N. leaders hoped to lure back — one day — holdouts that didn't agree to the accord. They included: Australia, Austria, the Czech Republic, the Dominican Republic, Hungary, Latvia, Poland, Slovakia and the United States, which under President Donald Trump didn't participate in drafting the accord.

Instead, defections and hesitation emerged as the conference neared. Belgium's coalition government split in a debate over the pact. Slovakia's foreign minister announced his resignation after his government opposed the compact, then changed his mind. The government of Switzerland, which co-chaired work on the draft text for months, stayed away as the pressure built.

Madeleine Albright, a former U.S. Secretary of State under President Bill Clinton, told a conference panel Monday she was "embarrassed and saddened" the United States wasn't officially represented at the conference and said the accord's adoption "is all the more notable given the current political climate."

"Still, even the compact's strongest supporters will acknowledge that its success ultimately depends on what concrete actions follow," Albright said.

High-level government envoys including German Chancellor Angela Merkel, who attended Monday, have been at pains to dispel what they say is false information circulating about the nonbinding pact — such as claims it would force governments to accept migrants.

Proponents say the accord above all aims to monitor the flow of people across borders, regions and continents, to organize cooperation between countries on managing human streams and to prevent the kind of disorderly journeys that claim lives of migrants.