SANTIAGO: Chile has become the latest country to pull out of a controversial United Nations migration pact, its interior ministry indicated, provoking fury among opposition parties who accused Sebastian Pinera’s government of “shameful and authoritarian” behaviour.
Rodrigo Ubilla, Chile's Interior Ministry subsecretary, told Chilean Sunday paper El Mercurio in an interview that the country's representatives would not attend the event to adopt the pact early next week in the Moroccan city of Marrakesh.
"Our position is clear," he said. "We have said that migration is not a human right. Countries have a right to determine the entry requirements for foreign citizens."
Chile's foreign ministry did not immediately respond to a Reuters request for confirmation of the policy.
The migration pact addresses issues such as how to protect people who migrate, integrate them into new countries or return them to their home countries.
It is non-binding but has met fierce resistance from governments including the United States, Austria, Hungary and Poland who frame it as encouraging migration.
If confirmed, Chile's refusal to sign reflects its hardening stance towards migrants whose population has grown fivefold in 30 years amid influxes from Venezuela, Haiti, the Dominican Republic and Colombia, among other Latin nations.
Centre-right Pinera’s government came to office in March on a promise to enforce stricter measures. In recent months, it as put on “repatriation” flights for Haitian migrants wanting to come home, tightened visa controls and deported migrants with criminal records. (https://reut.rs/2QoeFbs)
Ricardo Lagos Weber, the president of the foreign affairs commission for Chile's senate, summoned foreign minister Roberto Ampuero to explain the closed-door decision.
"This is not a great way to find out about a subject of such tremendous importance," he told El Mercurio. "I understand that foreign policy is led by the President of the Republic but we could at least discuss it."
Hugo Gutierrez, a human rights lawyer and lawmaker for Chile's Communist Party, wrote on Twitter that Chile was advancing down "the ultraright path of Trump, Netanyahu and Bolsonaro,” referring to the U.S., Israeli and Brazilian presidents.
Chile's Progressive Party described the Pinera government decision as "shameful and authoritarian."
Amnesty International said it was "alarming." "Chile was an active part of this pact's negotiations and was considered one of the states that favoured its implementation," Ana Piquer, Amnesty's executive director in Chile, told La Tercera newspaper. "The last-minute decision not to participate in the Morocco summit seems a step back on its promise of affording rights to migrants."
(Reporting by Aislinn Laing; Editing by Lisa Shumaker)