Climate refugees, the foremost migrants
This report brings together a series of studies and is published jointly by the International Organisation for Migration (IOM) and the Institute for Sustainable Development and International Relations (IDDRI). It shows that in addition to natural disasters, long term climate issues such as melting glaciers (in the Himalayas) or droughts provoke displacements.
Based primarily on case studies of catastrophic situations observed in 2010 (earthquake in Haiti and Chile, floods in Pakistan, forest fires in Russia, the Xinthia storm in France, etc.), the report highlights the preponderance of human migration due to effects of climate change over those related to conflicts, underlining the diversity and complexity of the phenomena.
However, the report also focuses on long-term deterioration of the environment, as observed in cases of chronic drought (Darfur) and deforestation (Amazon forest).
Moreover, this migration takes place mainly within the borders of a same country. It therefore becomes a challenge for the state, which confronts the problem alone; a problem that affects the poorest countries the most, when they are the least responsible for changes in global climate.
In June 2011, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, Antonio Guterres, sounded the alarm and called for the adoption “of new measures to deal with the displacement of populations generated by climate change and natural disasters.”
In 2008, 20 million people were displaced by a natural disaster (compared to 4.6 million due to violent conflicts), 15 million in 2009, and 38 million in 2010.
According to François Gemenne, coordinator of the report, “the year 2011 should see a number of the same magnitude.”
Beyond the figures, we need only evoke the largest refugee camps in the world, Daadab, Kenya, where refugees of all types flock and in increasing numbers since the drought in the Horn of Africa.