Venezuelan refugees are vulnerable to the worsening outbreak in South America: while coronavirus doesn’t discriminate, it does affect some people more than others.
Towards the status of climate refugee
The status of refugees should be updated to include all those people who are forced to migrate because of climate change.
A refugee is “someone who is unable or unwilling to return to their country of origin owing to a well-founded fear of being persecuted for reasons of race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group, or political opinion”. This is how the status of a refugee is defined by the 1951 Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees.
A text that is still effective but that should be updated to make space for all those people who are subject to the phenomenon of forced environmental migration.
The case of Kiribati
This is, for example, the reality that the inhabitants of Kiribati face. The state is composed of 33 atolls, all threatened by rising sea levels. Many have already escaped to the largest island, Tarawa, which is over-populated as a result. Floods periodically hit the coasts of the archipelago and make the availability of fresh water more difficult by causing its contamination with sea water, threaten crops and reduce the surface of habitable landmass.
The President of Kiribati Anote Tong has announced to his people, in particular younger generations, to prepare to leave the country, for “migration with dignity”. Tong declared that his government will increase resources towards education to give young people better opportunities to make a new life elsewhere.
Australia and island states
Australia is the largest and closest state which must prepare to let in thousands of climate refugees coming from the island states of the Pacific, who will add themselves to to the 20,000 people who every year ask for political asylum in Australia because they are threatened by conflict at home. Because of this, Phil Glendenning, President of the Refugee Council of Australia, has asked the central government led by Julia Gillard that it be the first country in the world to formally recognise the status of climate refugees. Because people who need help mustn’t face discrimination.
The largest coral reef in the world is severely threatened by climate change, but researchers are developing strategies that could contribute to saving the Great Barrier Reef.
Seychelles have extended its marine protected area, which now covers over 400,000 square kilometres, an area larger than Germany.
In the midst of India’s coronavirus lockdown, two dozen people lost their lives in a desperate bid to return home: migrant labourers forced to leave the cities where they worked once starvation began knocking at their doors.
Norwegian oil giant Equinor had pulled out of drilling for oil in the Great Australian Bight, one of the country’s most uncontaminated areas. A victory for activists and surfers who are now campaigning for the area to be protected forever.
30 per cent of the planet needs to be protected to stop precipitous species decline. The UN has set out its aims for the the COP15 on biodiversity scheduled for Kunming, China in October.
Ocean warming has risen to record highs over the last five years: just in 2019 the heat released into the world’s oceans was equivalent to that of 5-6 atomic bombs per second. The culprit, no doubt, is climate change.
Behrouz Boochani returned to being a free man during the course of this interview. The Kurdish writer was imprisoned by the Australian government in Papua New Guinea for six years.
What holds true whether we’re discussing migration or the environment? That “we’re suspicious of anything that shows empathy, goodness or righteousness,” says author and journalist Roberto Saviano. We interviewed him for the launch of his book There are no taxis in the sea.