Environmental migrant, what about them?

Environmental migrants are individuals or groups who are forced to leave their homes temporarily or permanently because of an environmental accident (of natural or human origin) that have put their lives in jeopardy or seriously affected their lives conditions. These are often farmers, but also sometimes hunters and gatherers, fishermen or farmers.

Environmental migrant

Climate change

The main reason of their movements is because of desertification, deforestation, salinization, erosion or various problems of toxicity in the soil, air or water.  We see more and more how recent cases of climate changes are rising. For example the expected rise in sea levels in the decades to come or the progression of deserts, the drying of lakes and seas.

According to an evaluation, nowadays already 163 million people are forced to leave their homes as a result of conflicts, natural disasters and development projects. In 2050, there will be at least a billion people who will be forced to migrate around the world due to theses environmental disasters.  From this billion people,  645 million would migrate for energy reasons, 50 million because of conflicts and violations of human rights and, 250 million because of phenomena directly induced by climate change like floods, droughts, shortages of water and food.

According to the United Nations, from now until 2050 there will be estimately  250 million people who could be forced to leave their homes, due to the consequences of climate change. From which we find:

  • The submergence of archipelagos such as the Ellice Islands. Where 12 000 people are threatened by the rise of the level of the sea.
  • Or of Inuit and of Alaska populations. Where we estimate that more than 200 communities are threatened by the decline of the ice.
  • The erosion or desertification of land threatens the margins of Europe. Like the Turkey who is concerned with 100 000 square miles of cultivable land degraded by erosion and the lack of water.
  • In Egypt, it is about 50% of irrigated arable land already affected by salinization.

What about legal recognition of environmental migrant?

Although the authorities and international organizations are aware of the problem, Climate refugees still don’t have any particular legal protection in the international juridical framework, unlike refugees seeking asylum in another country.  Even if in this past six years, 184 million people were forced to leave their home or even their countries because of a climate catastrophe.

In addition to the difficulty of defining a  global climate refugee status for theses climate victims, the challenge of the COP22 is to find a solution to this problem.  The 2015 United Nations Climate Change Conference in Paris mentioned for the first time, the importance of finding a solution to the lack of juridical protection of the climate refugees. We could consider this already as the first achievement. For the international community, the goal is now to go beyond the symbolic dimension to organize the support of these populations in difficulty.




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