Sun, Jul 01, 2018 - Page 5 News List

US loses migration agency leadership

UN SNUB:Antonio Vitorino, who has served as Portugal’s deputy prime minister and Europe’s justice leader, was chosen over the US pick, who faced charges of bigotry

AFP, GENEVA

Decades of US leadership at the UN International Organization for Migration was broken on Friday, as voters rejected US President Donald Trump’s pick for director-general, electing Portuguese politician Antonio Vitorino instead.

The organization had been led by an American throughout the agency’s 67-year history with one exception, from 1961 to 1969.

However, Trump’s pick, Ken Isaacs, an executive with the Christian charity Samaritan’s Purse who faced serious charges of anti-Muslim bigotry, proved to be an untenable choice.

Vitorino, 61, won by acclamation after Isaacs was knocked out of the race and the third candidate, organization Deputy Director-General Laura Thompson, stood aside after seeing no path to victory.

Vitorino said he was “honored” to lead the group at “a particularly critical juncture when it comes to migration policy.”

He served as Portugal’s deputy prime minister and minister of defense in the mid-1990s and is to have a powerful friend inside the UN when he takes over the organization on Oct. 1: his boss in Lisbon was current UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres.

Asked whether his ties to Guterres might trigger charges of nepotism, Vitorino said: “It is true I am a close friend of the secretary-general for 40 years. Our friendship has never been a problem, not even when we do not agree.”

Vitorino also served as the European commissioner for justice from 1999 to 2004, and his win will likely be seen as a boon to Brussels as the EU tries to forge a united approach to migration challenges.

Analysts had said that voters might back Isaacs to avoid US funding cuts, but Trump’s posture on migration and Isaacs’ personal history appeared to sway the room.

Isaacs wrote numerous tweets describing Islam as an inherently violent religion, including one after the 2016 attack in the French city of Nice that said “Islam is not peaceful.”

He has also retweeted xenophobic material, such as a post last year from Jihad Watch director Robert Spencer, which said that “peaceful Muslims” and “jihadis” were indistinguishable.

Isaacs made his Twitter account private amid the uproar that followed his nomination in February, but he did not deny responsibility for any of his controversial comments.

He also refused to definitively recognize the causal link between human activity and climate change.

Isaacs’ loss “is a sad statement on US global credibility,” Center for Global Development senior policy fellow Jeremy Konyndyk said.

Vitorino is to replace veteran US diplomat William Lacy Swing, who has held senior US Department of State and UN posts over a career spanning half a century.

In 1997, Vitorino resigned his positions in the Portuguese government after media reports questioned whether he had fully paid his property taxes. He then took up a post in Brussels while remaining engaged on the Portuguese political scene as a high-profile lawyer.

As much of the West has wrestled with the political effects of migration from less-developed countries, Vitorino has sought to portray migration as a positive for economic development.

He underscored the need to demonstrate the “close link between migration and development.”

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