Bolsonaro threatens to withdraw Brazil from UN migration pact

Brazilian president slams freshly-minted global accord, saying rules will be made 'without external influence'.

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    Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro took office on January 1 [File: Adriano Machado/Reuters]
    Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro took office on January 1 [File: Adriano Machado/Reuters]

    Brazil's new far-right President Jair Bolsonaro on Wednesday blasted the UN's global migration pact, a deal he has promised to pull out of, saying decisions about who was able to come into his country need to be "sovereign".

    In a series of tweets, Bolsonaro declared "defending national sovereignty" would be a priority of his government.

    "No to the migration pact ... We shall establish rules without external influence, seeking to better the lives of those who reside legally in Brazil - citizen or immigrant alike," Bolsonaro said, referring to the UN's Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration (GCM).

    "We will never refuse to help those in need, but immigration cannot become an indiscriminate act ... If we control those who enter our homes, why should it be different with Brazil as a nation?" he added.

    Bolsonaro, a former army captain elected to Brazil's top office in October, had threatened to abandon the GCM prior to his inauguration on January 1.

    UN-endorsed agreement

    The non-binding accord was endorsed by the UN General Assembly in December after 18 months of negotiations among member states.

    It comprises 23 objectives for managing migration in a coordinated, comprehensive way at local, national, regional and global levels.

    Brazil ratified the pact under Bolsonaro's predecessor, Michel Temer. Bolsonaro will require congressional approval to ditch the accord.

    Brazilian news agency Agencia Brasil reported on Wednesday that the 63-year-old had communicated his decision to pull out of the deal to the country's Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

    In response to questions about the reports, the ministry said the president had "confirmed it himself on his Twitter account".

    The UN's migration agency, the International Organization for Migration (IOM), declined to comment.

    'Brazil first agenda'

    Brazil is one of several Latin American countries currently receiving migrants fleeing neighbouring Venezuela, which is plagued by an economic collapse causing severe food and medicine shortages.

    More than 150,000 Venezuelans have entered Brazil since 2015 through its remote northern border state of Roraima, according to the IOM, over 65,000 of whom have requested asylum to date.

    Thiago de Aragao, a director at the Brasilia-based political consultancy Arko Advice, told Al Jazeera a Brazilian withdrawal from the migration pact would allow Bolsonaro's government to "claim they do not need to respond as expected towards certain issues on the border with Venezuela".

    "This will be a narrative that will be sustained for a while ... the intention of the government is to make it more difficult for Venezuelans to enter the country," de Aragao said.

    Bolsonaro's comments on Wednesday also symbolised the beginning of a "Brazil first" agenda under the new president, he added.

    "This demonstrates a shift in Brazilian foreign policy because it has previously always been very directed towards multilateralism," de Aragao said.

    Roberto Simon, senior director for policy at the New York-based Council of the Americas, added that Bolsonaro's move to withdraw from the GCM was "unlikely to be his only casualty at the UN".

    "His [Bolsonaro's] decision is part of a much larger foreign policy overhaul, seeking to position Brazil alongside US President Donald Trump, Hungary, Poland, Italy and other countries engaged in the fight against so-called 'globalism'," Simon told Al Jazeera.

    Trump pulled the United States out of the GCM in December.

    Announcing Washington's decision to withdraw, former US Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley said the migration accord was "not compatible with US sovereignty".

    There were almost 260 million international migrants in 2017, up nearly 50 percent from the corresponding figure in 2000, according to the UN.

    Accounting for 3.4 percent of the world's people, the world's migrant population is now increasing faster than the general global population.

    SOURCE: Al Jazeera News