Premium Portugal has made a commitment to the UN on the migration issue and will keep it

Foreign Affairs Minister Augusto Santos Silva speaks to reporters this afternoon May 23 2017, on arrival

Foreign Affairs Minister Augusto Santos Silva speaks to reporters this afternoon May 23 2017, on arrival at a lunch in the Portuguese-Spanish Chamber of Commerce and Industry, in a hotel in Lisbon. MIGUEL A. LOPES/Lusa

Portugal has been "from the very first moment" involved in the negotiations of the global pact for migration promoted by the UN, is reviewed in the document and will "keep" its word, Lusa told the Portuguese diplomat.

"Portugal was from the first moment involved in the negotiations of the global pact of migrations that began at the United Nations," Foreign Minister Augusto Santos Silva told the Lusa news agency a few days before the intergovernmental conference to be held in Morocco by the formal adoption of the Global Compact for Safe, Ordained, and Regular Migration (GCM).

Recalling that Portugal subscribed in September of 2016the document which gave the starting point for the negotiations of the pact, the so-called "New York Declaration", and participated in the negotiation processes of several months culminating in the final text of the document, approved last July, Santos Silva stressed that o país "naturally fulfills" his word.

Portugal "is entirely revised in the text that has been arrived at... and will subscribe to the pact," continued the representative.

Although not binding in nature, the pact negotiated under the auspices of the United Nations has been dividing opinions and provoking criticism of nationalist forces in several European Union (EU) countries in recent weeks. Some countries, such as Poland, Austria or the Czech Republic, stepped back and announced that they will not sign the document.

Santos Silva respects the decision of the European partners, but regrets that they have taken it, after having participated in the negotiations.

"This does not honor the word of Europeans, it harms the image of Europeans... And above all it shows that some governments are afraid of far-right groups, which does not bode well for the values of European democracy", he said.

Still on the divisions that the text has raised, the head of Portuguese diplomacy argued that such a situation reflects "a mixture of ignorance, prejudice" and "ideological differences."

"Among those who do not want to sign the pact it is said very much that this pact enshrines a new right that would be the right to immigrate. That's not what we say. What we say and we must say, is that migrants, even in an irregular situation, continue to be people, with the dignity of people and with rights", he said.

For Santos Silva, the global migration pact, the first such document, also reflects the importance of the work of countries that "believe in multilateralism, that want a positive migration agenda, that want the member states to politically an agenda of principles and examples to follow"

.The minister reiterated that the Portuguese government agrees with the philosophy of the pact, which "can be described in very general and easily understandable principles"

."The only alternative to illegal migration (...) are safe, regulated and legal migrations. If we want to combat illegal migration and trafficking, we must offer controlled, safe, orderly and regulated migration routes", he said.

And in order to achieve this goal, Santos Silva stressed, countries must work "on three fronts at the same time": defense of their borders, integration of migrants with a double dimension (reception and accountability) and capacity to comply with legal obligations ensure that persons who are persecuted or victims of conflict receive the useful processing of asylum applications.

"The pact is very clear in saying that we must act at the same time on security matters, act on integration and act on reception", he stressed.

The conference sponsored by the UN in Morocco will also be associated with the names of two Portuguese who are currently prominent in the international organization and migration issues: United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres and the Director-General of the Organization International Conference on Migration (IOM), António Vitorino.

According to Santos Silva, this situation "increases the responsibility of Portugal"

."The management of the pact implies IOM and Portugal's leadership when applying for Dr. António Vitorino knew this and that was one of the reasons why he submitted the candidacy. The global pact is a statement made within the United Nations, and the Secretary-General of the United Nations is Portuguese", he said.

"Portugal also has a responsibility that stems from the fact that it is one of the few countries in Europe today where the migration agenda benefits from a very broad social and political consensus", he said, recalling the country's link to "traditional emigration" and more recently to the picking up of several immigrant communities.

Two-thirds of the 193 UN member states will attend to the intergovernmental conference, between Monday and Tuesday in Marrakesh, Morocco, to adopt the global pact for migration

The document, the result of 18 months of consultations and negotiations between UN Member States, is the first of its kind and is based on a set of principles, such as the defense of human rights, the rights of migrant children or the recognition of national sovereignty.

The text also lists 23 objectives and concrete measures to help countries deal with migration, including information and integration, and to promote "safe, regular and orderly migration"

.The number of migrants in the world is currently estimated at 258 million, which represents 3.4% of the world's population.

The number of immigrants in Portugal increased by 2017 for the fifth year in a row, with an estimated 36,639 people residing in the country, up 6,714 from 2016, according to data released by the National Institute of Statistics (INE) released last November.

On the other hand, the number of emigrants decreased for the fourth consecutive year, 31,753 people against 38,272 registered in 2016, according to the same data.

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