US vs Europe: Tense race for UN migration agency begins

VS vs Europa :  Gespannen wedstrijd om VN-migratieagentschap opent

In an unusually tense contest between the allies set to begin in Geneva on Monday, the U.N. Europe and the United States have competing candidates for the head of the migration agency.

By Gabriel Tetrault-Farber and Emma Farge

The International Organization for Migration (IOM) aims to ensure humane and orderly migration by intervening in emergency situations to help the vulnerable.

The 175 member states are voting in secret behind closed doors starting Monday morning.

The candidates are IOM Deputy Director Amy Pope, a former White House adviser personally endorsed by US President Joe Biden, and her boss Antonio Vittorino, a Portuguese national who will lead the organization since 2018.

The pope announced his campaign last year and has been on unpaid leave from IOM since March, tweeting photos of his meetings with officials around the world. He promises to “proactively address the challenges of immigration and reap its benefits” and says he will focus on root causes.

Vittorino, a former European commissioner close to UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, said the increase in the body’s annual budget was one of his successes.

When asked about the competition, he admitted that it was unprecedented.

“It has never happened before that a Director General has gone against his representatives. It can be called a novelty,” he told reporters. He said he had the support of Portugal and the “strong encouragement” of the European Union.

Both candidates have exerted strong pressure in recent weeks, diplomats said, and expect multiple rounds of voting for a candidate to win the two-thirds majority required by the IOM’s constitution. Both have privately said they are confident of victory.

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A diplomat joked that the vote would be secret to avoid the wrath of Brussels or Washington.

Voting may extend till Tuesday depending on the number of rounds.

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