#ClimateJusticeThursday: Making a case for climate refugees

climate refugees - climateaction

#ClimateJusticeThursday: Making a case for climate refugees

Hello readers.

Welcome to #ClimateJusticeThursday on CleanbuildVoices!

Climate change is causing extreme weather events – drought, floods, windstorms, etc – that are leading to inconceivable disasters across the globe.

Weather events that used to be seasonal, are becoming more regular occurrences, resulting in rising sea levels, drought, natural disasters, desertification, and land degradation.

Crops, livestock, and shelter are being washed away in coastal areas as a result of rising sea levels. Even humans are not spared.

In areas that are experiencing drought, there is barely enough water to drink, talk more of engaging in farming activities.

As the global climate crisis intensifies, a growing number of people, who are mostly from developing countries, are fleeing their homes for safety and means of survival.

These people, sometimes referred to as climate refugees or climate migrants, are victims of the changing climate.

The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) released data in April indicating a 21.5 million increase in the number of people displaced by climate change-induced disasters since 2010. And this trend persists.

In fact, experts are saying that over 200 million people would likely be displaced or forced to flee their homes by 2050 due to climate change disasters (sea-level rise, crop failures, water shortages, etc).

This calls for great concern because climate refugees are not only vulnerable to the climate crisis but are also exposed to violence and abuse.

There is even a clear link between disasters, migration, and increasing human trafficking.

According to the UN Environment Programme, there is an estimated 20%-30% increase in human trafficking during disasters.

A significant number of climate-displaced people are victims of modern-day slavery. This is an increased risk especially for women and girls who become victims of human trafficking and exploitation as a result of their vulnerabilities.

They end up in forced labor or are held in debt bondage and as such, become prostitutes to offset their debt. Some are even married off against their will.

Another danger that climate refugees face is the armed conflict that stems from climate-induced conditions.

When there are limited resources due to the extreme weather events, conflicts break out and this causes people to flee for their own safety and seek asylum elsewhere.

Protecting climate refugees

Climate-induced migration is a complex phenomenon that poses a great challenge for governments.

Because of that, conversations on climate refugees and measures in their interests tend to be excluded from discussions pertaining to loss and damage.

Instead, much concern is being given to mitigation and adaptation strategies at the detriment of loss and damage which in turn means less coverage for climate-related migration, displacement, and resettlement.

Governments should protect climate refugees and devise relocation plans and visa options aimed at protecting climate refugees in the countries of their arrival.

They should also take measures to ensure migration opportunities so that they are not left stranded.

Finally, clearly defining whom climate refugees are and formulating policies that ensure that they are protected from abuse, provided resettlement options, and their human rights are factored in the planning and implementation of climate change measures, will be a step in the right direction if we truly want to make a case for climate refugees.

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