Tuesday, November 29

Disasters linked to the climate crisis caused 24 million internal displacements in 2021

floods, firesheat waves, droughts... No corner of the world is safe from the consequences of the climate crisis. The UN claims that rising temperatures are the direct cause of environmental degradation, natural disasters, extreme weather conditions, food and water insecurity, economic disruption, conflict and terrorism. And, therefore, migrations.

Millions of people leave their homes every year and are forced to move due to environmental degradation related to climate change. Most do so in their own countries, without crossing international borders. According to the report ‘run away from climate. How the climate crisis influences human migration’, carried out by the Spanish Commission for Refugee Aid (CEAR) and the NGO Greenpeace, more than 30 million internal displacements in 2020 were related to phenomena related to meteorological, climatic and geophysical events. A number that could be multiplied almost fivefold by 2050. As predicted by the World Bank in its ‘Groundswell’ report, in the worst scenario there would be 143 million climate displaced persons. “Get ready,” he warned.

However, today, and with the Convention on the Status of Refugees adopted in Geneva in 1951 in hand, migrants for climate reasons are not recognized as refugees. Dove FavièresDirector of Policies and Campaigns at CEAR, explains that her organization seeks to advance “broader interpretations of the Geneva refugee definition.”

“You have to be flexible and make a more inclusive interpretation,” he explains. If the directive itself considers that fleeing harm serves to recognize refugee status, why not include environmental degradation?

alternative formulas

Albert Marrieddirector of political advocacy for Ayuda en Acción, explains that one of the fears of opening the debate to include these migrants in the refugee designation in the Geneva Convention is that, instead of improving their protection, it becomes even more restrictive.

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“At the regional level, the countries are arbitrating some protection systems, which are not as powerful as that of refugee status, but they do provide some security or help for climate change issues,” explains Casado.

Among the formulas that CEAR is studying for protection is the possibility that become stateless. It would be useful, for example, for those people who have lost their homes due to climate change, as happened with Vanuatu, an archipelago located about 200 kilometers west of Australia, in the Pacific. A study by the British foundation New Economics called it “the country of happiness” for its deserted beaches, its freshwater shrimp and its slow pace of life. Now your population has had to migrate due to rising sea levelswhich is estimated at about 11 centimeters each year.

The Internal Displacement Control Center (IDMC) estimates that 1,500 disasters were reported in 2021, which caused 24.2 million internal displacements.

What areas do they affect?

“The rich states of the global North, together with the large polluting companies, are historically responsible for the majority of greenhouse gas emissions. However, the rRegions of the global South are suffering the worst consequences of climate change“, denounces the report ‘Displacement and climate migration: a challenge we must face’, carried out by Ecodes, Ayuda en Acción and Entreculturas.

“Hence the talk of climate justice and how countries with more resources should support those that do not have them or have already had losses”, explains the director of Political Incidence of Ayuda en Acción, who assures that there is a risk that climate migrations will spread to more countries. He points out that years ago it was unthinkable that there would be people migrating in Central America due to climate change. In the last 10 years it happens mainly due to droughts. The Central American Dry Corridor, the Horn of Africa and the Sahel They are the big lights. They all have problems with water, pasture and crops, which pushes hundreds of thousands of families to move due to food insecurity brought about by climate change.

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Europe is not exempt from this disaster either. Some crops, such as grapes, are already moving north. Spain, due to its geographical location and its socioeconomic characteristics, is a vulnerable country to the effects of climate change and the one with the highest risk of suffering desertification of the entire continent.

Indigenous women and communities

In climatic migrations there is also gender inequality, explains Casado. Women are more vulnerable because they are the ones who are mostly engaged in agricultural work and therefore are deprived of their livelihood when extreme events devastate the land. In addition, they run more risks when they move to other territories, as they are susceptible to being victims of trafficking and suffering violence. “They are one of the most unprotected groups,” says the spokesman for Ayuda en Acción. The elderly, the sick, minors and indigenous communities are part of the most defenseless groups in the face of climate crises.

In climatic migrations there is also gender inequality because women are more vulnerable

There are numerous documented cases of women affected by climate change in Bangladesh who have migrated to India and been sold as wives or trafficked for sexual exploitation. The WHO has also shown that there are refugee women and girls in eastern Congo and Guinea who are forced to have sex in exchange for food or shelter for themselves or their families.

All these cases are collected beatrice philipauthor of the book ‘Climate migrations in the face of international law’ (Aranzadi, 2019), in the Ecodes report ‘Gender perspective on climate migrations’, published in 2019. The report claims that the organizations that collect data on movements due to climate change disaggregate them by sex and age.

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They also invite international cooperation actors to “promote projects and programs that promote climate action with a gender perspectivewith serious, ambitious and urgent proposals for mitigation and adaptation to climate change” and “to promote processes towards ecological transition”.

Especially since the problems do not stop at the destination. CEAR points out that the Migrant and refugee women suffer discrimination in host societies for multiple reasons and that to the gender component is added that of nationality and in many cases racial or ethnic. “All of these are factors of social exclusion –salary gap, difficulties in access to housing for single women, etc. – that we cannot ignore”.


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