UN approves compact to support world's refugees, US objects

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UNITED NATIONS (AP) — Despite opposition from the United States and Hungary, the U.N. General Assembly overwhelmingly approved a non-binding compact Monday that provides more robust support for countries where most of the world’s more than 25 million refugees live.

The Global Compact on Refugees also strengthens shared responsibility to help those who are forced to flee their country because of conflict or persecution.

The vote was 181-2 with the Dominican Republic, Eritrea and Libya abstaining.

U.N. refugee chief Filippo Grandi called the compact “historic” in a tweet, adding: “It is the biggest effort to broadly share refugee responsibilities that I have witnessed in 34 years of work with refugees.”

The agreement is separate from another non-binding compact to ensure safe, orderly and humane migration which was approved on Dec. 10 by nearly 85 percent of the U.N.’s 193 member states over fierce opposition from the United States.

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The Global Compact for Migration is expected to be endorsed by the General Assembly on Wednesday.

The Global Compact on Refugees was adopted at a time when a record-high 68.5 million people have been forced to flee their homes. This includes 25.4 million who have crossed borders to become refugees and 43.1 million who are displaced within their home countries.

According to the U.N. refugee agency, nine out of 10 refugees live in developing countries, where basic services like health or education are already strained.

The new compact aims to provide more investment from governments and the private sector for infrastructure and services to benefit both refugees and host communities, including access to education.

It also aims to address the environmental impact of hosting refugees, promotes the use of alternative energy, and envisions more resettlement opportunities through family reunification, student scholarships, or humanitarian visas so that refugees can travel safely.

The compact builds on the 1951 Refugee Convention in addition to human rights and humanitarian law and makes way for a follow-up Global Refugee Forum every four years.

Grandi called the refugee compact “a powerful expression of how we work together in today’s fragmented world” and stressed that “no country should be left alone to respond to a huge influx of refugees.”

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