What About the Climate Refugees?
Today marks World Refugee Day - every year on June 20th, the world celebrates bringing awareness to the plight, lives & human stories of global refugees -2022 see's the focus on the right to seek safety.
There are many reasons communities & people become displaced; war, violence, religious, national, social, racial, political persecution, gender/sexual orientation, hunger and climate change. "But officially, climate change is not yet a valid reason for an asylum claim. In 2013, the first climate change refugee asylum case was shot down by the New Zealand High Court when a Kiribati man attempted to claim that status by law.
But as man-made climate change worsens, and oceans rise, the 1951 and 1967 conventions may need to expand their scope"(Global citizen.)
Whoever. Wherever. Whenever. Everyone has the right to seek safety.
According to the UNHCR, more than 115 000 people reached Europe through the Mediterranean Sea in 2021. Since 2014 more than 23 000 people have lost their lives trying to get to Europe; as cruel as this number is, this reflects only the recorded deaths; many others disappeared without any NGOs or authority registered.
The European political class quickly characterised and distinguished these people as refugees and "economic migrants''. Now we have two distinct groups in the eyes of the European States: those entitled to international protection and those that should be repatriated. It's not my goal to write about the political repercussions of international law or the morality behind the international protection of individuals looking for a safe haven.
Gaia Education educates people that real change starts with us and that it's in our hands to create the necessary regeneration of our planet.
The UN Refugees Agency published in October 2015 a report titled 'UNHCR, the Environment & Climate Change', which predicted the significant number of refugees as a result of Climate Change. Although at the time recognised that it was challenging to relate Climate Change to the causes of displacement, UNHCR was able to show a relation between the drought in Somalia and the conflict that forced people to flee to Kenya. Today, we know that global warming is affecting countries around the equator severely.
The North American organisation Climate Refugees has been publishing numerous reports and case studies about the impact of global warming on the populations and communities worldwide, especially those more dependent on small-scale agriculture, farming and fisheries. Since 2018 the World Bank has warned that in 2050 more than 140 million people will be displaced due to climate change. The same report's last edition already states that there're already says that they're 216 million displaced people. We still are far away from 2050, but the borders of the European Union already reflect the drastic future ahead of us.
People will keep dying on the shores and the deathly 'roads' to Europe until we can recognise that the Climate Crisis is putting people in danger.
Gaia Education educates people that real change starts with us and that it's in our hands to create the necessary regeneration of our planet. In 2016 and 2017, we developed a project called Sicily Integra (Socio-Economic Integration of Migrants & Sicilian Youth through Organic Products). Integration of displaced people is of the utmost importance to peaceful and safe communities, we understand that, and we will keep fighting for a more tolerant and inclusive world.
People will keep dying on the shores and the deathly 'roads' to Europe until we can recognise that the Climate Crisis is putting people in danger. Until choices are made to reverse it and regenerate the planet significantly, there's nothing we can do except accept that people flying from the lack of natural resources, extreme droughts, inconsistent temperatures, air pollution, and others deserve the same international protection as refugees and people fleeing persecution.
The Magna Carta (1215), along with the US Declaration of Independence (1776) and the US Bill of Rights (1791), inaugurated the fundamental rights of first-generation. Many others came after those, and we can argue that we have now the third generation of fundamental rights that are well established and accepted globally. The Council of Europe, with many European countries (even outside the EU) as state members, recognises the right to a healthy environment as one of these fundamental rights of the third generation.
The international treaties relating to human rights go as far as recognising many of these rights but lack solutions for people seeking refuge due to (directly or indirectly) climate change events.
Why does it happen?
We don't have an answer besides border control. Creating the Climate Refugee will open the door to many people reaching Europe, making clear that safe passages are even more necessary and starting a proper discussion on how the consumption habits of the global north are seriously damaging the countries along the equator.
Where to start?
- Urge the creation of the status of Climate Refugees;
- Demand those rights are protected under the international law;
- Continue our fight for more sustainable practices;
- Stay informed and fight disinformation.
At Gaia Education, we are committed to bringing this issue to the awareness of all of our students and utilising every time we have the chance to shape change- and law-makers’ views on climate refugee issues.