World Needs To Prepare For ‘Millions’ Of Climate Refugees – UN Official

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The world needs to prepare for a surge in refugees with potentially millions of people being driven from their homes by the impact of climate change, according to a top UN official.

Speaking at the World Economic Forum on Tuesday, Filippo Grandi, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees said that a UN ruling within the week meant those fleeing as a result of climate change had to be treated by recipient countries as refugees, with broad implications for governments.

The UN Human Rights Committee made the landmark ruling on Monday in relation to Ioane Teitiota, from the Pacific nation of Kiribati, who brought a case against New Zealand after authorities denied his claim of asylum.

“The ruling says if you have an immediate threat to your life due to climate change, due to the climate emergency, and if you cross the border and go to another country, you should not be sent back.

“Because sending you back may be at risk of your life, just like in a war or in a situation of persecution.

“We must be prepared for a large surge of people moving against their will.

“I wouldn’t venture to talk about specific numbers, it’s too speculative, but certainly we’re talking about millions here,” Grandi said.

Whereas for most of its 70 years UNHCR, the UN’s refugee agency, has worked to assist those fleeing poorer countries as a result of conflict, climate change is more indiscriminate, meaning richer countries may become a rising source of refugees.

“It is further proof that refugee movements and the broader issue of migration of populations, is a global challenge that cannot be confined to a few countries,” Grandi added.

UNHCR, whose budget has risen from 1 billion dollars a year in the early 1990s to 8.6 billion dollars in 2019 as conflicts in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Syria have forced civilians to flee, now assists more than 70 million forcibly displaced people globally.

Turkey is the largest recipient, with more than 4 million refugees and asylum seekers, the vast majority from Syria.

That has put strain on Turkey’s public finances and led President Tayyip Erdogan to demand more assistance from Europe.

In November 2019, Erdogan threatened to open the door for Syrian refugees to head to Europe unless the European Union stepped up, and is now calling for the “resettlement” of up to 1 million Syrians in the north of their homeland.

Grandi said European governments needed to think hard about solutions to the migrant crisis that has affected them since 2015, however also show more understanding of Turkey’s situation.

“We must recognise that for the past several years Turkey has been hosting the largest refugee population in the world.

“There’s a lot of political talk. I concentrate on the substance of this, which is let’s strengthen Turkey’s ability to host refugees until they can go back safely, voluntarily to their countries,” he said. (Reuters/NAN)


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