What’s worse than people being forced to leave their homes? where would you go if, say, a flood took over your city, the school you once went to, the house where you spent your childhood?
Millions of people were forced to answer that question, they were forced to leave their cities, if not their countries due to the sudden or long-term changes happening in their environment. They saw and felt the danger that threatened their lives.
While millions are migrating because of the climate, we’re are only hearing about the war refugees. In the next 50 years, billions will have to answer the same question because of floods, windstorms, earthquakes or droughts increasing.
It's hard to pin down the first reference to primitive migrants. « climate refugees » are also known as « environmental migrants», their sufferings are caused by the terrible consequences of climate change. They come from places where water is no longer drinkable, food is no longer available, and staying is no longer an option.
Since 2009, an estimated one person every second has been displaced by a disaster, with an average of 22.5 million people displaced by climate- or weather-related events since 2008 (IDMC 2015). Disasters and slow onsets, such as droughts in Somalia in 2011 and 2012, floods in Pakistan between 2010 and 2012, and the earthquake in Nepal in 2015, can leave huge numbers of people traumatized without shelter, clean water, and basic supplies.
Despite all of this, these migrants have no legal basis in the International Refugee Law even when the Environmental Migration may take many complex forms; forced and voluntary, temporary and permanent, internal and international.
Many find refuge within their own country, but some are forced to go abroad. This leads us to another issue; the conflicts that might spark between the communities since the ones leaving their countries outside the legal framework for protection.
Climate change is an increasing driver of forced displacement. The scale of this challenge is unlike anything humanity has ever faced. By midcentury, climate change is likely to uproot far more people than World War II, which displaced 60 million across Europe, or the Partition of India, which affected approximately 15 million.
The migration crisis that has gripped Europe since 2015 has involved over 1 million migrants. It is daunting to envision much larger flows of people, but that is why the global community should start doing so NOW!
Negotiating international agreements on these issues could take many years, that is why intermediate steps are needed by our nations.
We should offer temporary protected status to climate migrants who are already on its soil. Government aid programs and nongovernment organizations should ramp up support to refugee relief organizations and ensure that aid reaches refugees from climate disasters.
In addition, all countries that have not signed the United Nations refugee conventions could consider joining them. This includes many developing countries in South Asia and the Middle East that are highly vulnerable to climate change and that already have large refugee populations. Since most of the affected people in these countries will likely move to neighboring nations, it is crucial that all countries in these regions abide by a common set of policies for handling and assisting refugees.