Forced Migration – A New Challenge
The topic at hand looks beyond the current refugee crisis.
Larger questions are on the horizon. IPCC noted in its 2014 report that “the effect of climate change on conflict – – has the potential to become a key risk”.
And already in 2009, the UN Refugee Agency stated that “international cooperation against climate change is not only expedient. It is also a human rights obligation.”
Our actions now gravely threaten human rights globally in the coming decades.
Even if we manage to mitigate climate change, millions of people will be directly affected. In many poor areas, living conditions will deteriorate further and lead to forced migration.
Already, many crises around the world have potential connections to climate change. Problems such as draughts and poverty clearly increase the risk of conflict.
UN Refugee Agency estimates that the number of environmental migrants will reach 150 million in the coming decades.
And of course climate change is not our only concern. We also need the capacity to react to other potential problems, such as nuclear disasters.
Our legislation on asylum is typically based on protecting people from persecution or fear of death.
Forced migration is a different issue. No form of persecution is involved. Yet, people’s living environment may have become simply impossible.
Forcing people to live in such conditions poses serious threat to their human rights.
People with wealth often have the opportunity to emigrate. The vast majority of people lack this option.
The largest environmental risks and also migratory pressures tend to concentrate in fragile states that don’t have the capacity to respond to them.
This is where the international community should step in.
The current international standards concerning environmental displacement are not adequate. Many countries are responding to the current crisis by tightening migration laws even further.
Finland is mentioned as a positive example in the report we are discussing about, because it provides temporary protection on humanitarian and environmental grounds. Sadly, our parliament abolished this clause last week.
Personally I voted in favour of keeping humanitarian protection in our legislation and I am ashamed by the decision that was made.
Finnish government wished to “harmonize” legislation with other EU countries. When it comes to migration laws, it seems that European states are engaged in a race to the bottom.
If the current crisis has taught us anything, it should be that we must have the capacity to act in the face of unexpected disasters. The COE should encourage its member states to acknowledge this reality, to find common solutions to take forced migration into account, and to update our legislation accordingly.