A U.N. Migration Pact Is Dividing Europe — And Has Become Fodder For Nationalists The pact, set to be approved this week, is meant to help the European Union navigate its most politically sensitive issue. The pact is non-binding, but several countries have pulled support.
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A U.N. Migration Pact Is Dividing Europe — And Has Become Fodder For Nationalists

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A U.N. Migration Pact Is Dividing Europe — And Has Become Fodder For Nationalists

A U.N. Migration Pact Is Dividing Europe — And Has Become Fodder For Nationalists

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STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

World leaders meet in Morocco this week and vote on a United Nations' global migration compact. It is supposed to make migration more orderly and more humane. Joanna Kakissis reports that many Europeans are not enthused.

JOANNA KAKISSIS, BYLINE: To get a sense of how sympathy for asylum-seekers has waned in Europe, consider the fate of a charity-run rescue ship called the Aquarius.

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UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #1: (Yelling in foreign language).

KAKISSIS: In the last two years, volunteers on the Aquarius rescued nearly 50,000 migrants trying to cross miles of sea between North Africa and Italy on very flimsy rafts.

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UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #2: Life jackets for everybody. Let's go.

KAKISSIS: But on Friday, after months of pressure from Italy's anti-immigrant government, the Aquarius was forced to stop its work. Amnesty International's Kumi Naidoo slammed the EU in a video message.

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KUMI NAIDOO: European leaders have shown where their true priorities lie. The closure of the Central Mediterranean route for refugees and migrants, even at the cost of the soaring death toll at sea...

KAKISSIS: Activists want to shame anti-immigrant nationalists in Europe.

GERALD KNAUS: Some leaders you can't shame because they openly want to change what is considered shameful.

KAKISSIS: Gerald Knaus is an analyst in Berlin who helps EU leaders draft migration policy.

KNAUS: If you believe in human rights, in refugee rights, in humane policies, you need to actually present proposals that can be supported by majorities.

KAKISSIS: He says most Europeans want border control but with respect for human life. That's what the U.N. global migration pact aims to do. Refugee politics specialist Anne Hammerstad calls it a guide for nations to work together.

ANNE HAMMERSTAD: It does involve wording such as the human rights of migrants and making their journey more safe, et cetera.

KAKISSIS: Europe's nationalists claim this wording proves there's a global conspiracy to flood the continent with undocumented migrants.

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MARCEL DE GRAAFF: The compact for migration is legalisation of mass migration. It's declaring migration as a human right.

KAKISSIS: That's Marcel de Graaff, a Dutch member of the European Parliament, speaking to reporters last week.

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DE GRAAFF: So, in fact, it will become impossible to criticise without being at risk to be jailed for hate speech. Criticism of migration will become a criminal offence.

KAKISSIS: Knaus calls statements like these...

KNAUS: Completely delusional, but the mythology of a great conspiracy, which is spread in social media by far-right organizations very effectively, is becoming increasingly an important effect in European politics.

KAKISSIS: False claims about the U.N. pact have fueled the opposition, and at least seven EU countries have refused to sign the document. It's also left to Belgium's government hanging by a thread. Matteo Villa, a migration specialist in Italy, sees a debate disconnected from reality.

MATTEO VILLA: Migration is toxic right now in Europe. Here's why. Politicians have been very effective at portraying any number of migrants arriving by sea as an invasion.

KAKISSIS: And he expects that to keep happening even though the number of asylum-seekers arriving in the EU is at its lowest level in five years. For NPR News, I'm Joanna Kakissis.

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