Climate change impacts like droughts, floods, and sea-level rise are affecting people’s lives to the point that they would want to relocate not just within their own country but to another.
But due to a lack of migration or international laws about climate conditions, these ‘climate migrants’ face closed borders and little support.
Receiving countries would have laws on refugees on the grounds of violence and conflicts but not on environmental stress.
Although international agreements cover the impacts of natural disasters and environmental degradations, such as the Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration, and the Global Compact for Refugees, these provisions are not legally binding according to the article.
People who may want to migrate to another country due to environmental stressors, like migrants from Guatemala who may wish to enter the U.S. due to severe droughts or storms, are also fleeing because of violence and crime in their home country and for better opportunities for their family.
These migrants would not fall into the category of refugees but will be processed as migrants under the U.S. migration laws.
No International migration laws or policies based on climate conditions
It is only in the 1980’s that scholars began using the term “environmental refugee” for those who are forced to leave their homes because of disruptions caused by environmental events such as desertification, deforestation, land degradation, and rising sea levels still the international definition of refugees does not include climate change.
The United Nations 1951 Refugee Convention defines refugees as people forced to flee their homelands because of fear of persecution based on race, religion, nationality, or membership in a particular social group or political opinion. It also establishes the obligations and responsibilities its member nations have to refugees.
However, international law lacks a clear definition of climate migrants. So climate migrants are treated like any other migrants, which puts them at a disadvantage because climate migrants are usually poorer than other international migrations.
According to the articles cited here, countries’ policies would scrutinise the economic prospects of immigrants before allowing them entry.
The number of climate migrants is expected to rise as climate change effects worsen
More than 23 million people each year relocate within their own countries because of disasters in the last decade. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) predicts that this will continue to increase climate change worsens (Donato, Carrico, & Gilligan, 2021, June 9).
In addition, the World Bank estimates that 143 million people from Latin America, Africa, and South Asia will leave their homes by 2050 (Podesta, 2019).
As climate change and environmental stressors are increasingly becoming the causes of displacement, “it’s time for countries worldwide to rethink the role of disasters and climate change in migration, recognize the rights of those displaced by environmental causes and reform international and national laws and policies, which are out of date with what’s known today about climate change and displacement. Nations may be reluctant to offer what may seem like a new portal for migrants, but evidence suggests those numbers will only rise, and countries need to be prepared” (Donato, Carrico, & Gilligan, 2021, June 11).
Donato, K., Carrico, A., & Gilligan J. (2021, June 9). It’s time to rethink the asylum process for climate refugees. Fast Company. Retrieved from https://www.fastcompany.com/90645092/its-time-to-rethink-the-asylum-process-for-climate-refugees
Podesta, J. (2019, July 25). The climate crisis, migration, and refugees. Brookings. Retrieved from https://www.brookings.edu/research/the-climate-crisis-migration-and-refugees/
Donato, K., Carrico, A., & Gilligan J. (2021, June 11). As more climate migrants cross borders seeking refuge, laws will need to adapt. Sciblogs. Retrieved from https://sciblogs.co.nz/changing-climate/2021/06/11/as-more-climate-migrants-cross-borders-seeking-refuge-laws-will-need-to-adapt/