Australia has abstained from voting as the UN General Assembly endorsed a sweeping accord to ensure safe and orderly migration.
The Global Compact for Migration is the first international document dealing with the issue, though it’s not legally binding. It was endorsed on Wednesday by a 152-5 vote.
The five countries that voted “no” on the compact were the United States, Hungary, the Czech Republic, Israel and Poland.
Austria, Switzerland, Italy and Bulgaria joined Australia in abstention.
The vote in favour of the resolution was lower than the 164 countries that approved the agreement by acclamation at a conference in Marrakech, Morocco, earlier this month.
The compact represents a UN-led effort to give migrants seeking economic opportunity a chance to find it and to have authorities crack down on the often dangerous and illegal movements of people across borders that have turned human smuggling into a worldwide industry.
UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres welcomed the resolution’s adoption, saying the compact provides a platform for international cooperation that points the way “toward humane and sensible action to benefit countries of origin, transit and destination as well as migrants themselves”.
“It calls for greater solidarity with migrants in situations of appalling vulnerability and abuse,” the UN chief said.
“And it highlights the imperative of devising more legal pathways for migration, which would also help to crack down on trafficking and exploitation.”
Prime Minister Scott Morrison had refused to sign the agreement that Australia had helped draft.
The prime minister said the UN pact would compromise Australia’s border security and immigration settings.
“It doesn’t distinguish between those who illegally enter Australia and those who come the right way,” he said on November 21.
“I would never allow something to compromise our borders, I worked too hard to ensure that we weren’t in that position.”
The agreement is supposed to support safe, orderly and regular migration.
The compact says that “the majority of migrants around the world today travel, live and work in a safe, orderly and regular manner.”
But Guterres told the Marrakech conference that “more than 60,000 migrants have died on the move since the year 2000” and called the loss of lives “a source of collective shame.”
Some countries have voiced scepticism over the eventual goals of the agreement.
The United States and other opponents argue that the compact is attempting to “globalize” how migration is carried out at the expense of the sovereignty of individual countries, and is trying to make new international law.
Supporters counter that the compact is non-binding and every country remains sovereign and in charge of its borders and migration policy.