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Millions of future climate refugees may need protection, U.N. committee warns

climate refugees

Refugees fleeing their native countries due to the effects of the climate crisis in future years may not be forced to return if their lives are in danger, the United Nations Human Rights Committee said in a ruling Monday. The committee anticipates a flood of “millions” of climate refugees in the near future.

The first-of-its-kind ruling — which a U.N. official called “powerfully symbolic” —came in the case of Ioane Teitiota, who applied for protection in New Zealand in 2013. Teitiota claimed his family’s lives were at risk in his home nation of Kiribati, a country severely threatened by rising sea levels. And while he actually lost his case, the U.N. committee took the opportunity to make a broader statement about climate refugees.

The situation in Tarawa, Teitiota’s home island, “has become increasingly unstable and precarious due to sea-level rise caused by global warming,” his counsel said. Saltwater contamination and overcrowding on the island have resulted in scarce freshwater resources and a growing housing crisis.

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In 1947, South Tarawa was home to just 1,671 people. In 2010, its population surpassed 50,000 after nearby islands became uninhabitable. By 2017, Kiribati’s population had soared to over 100,000 people.

CBSN On Assignment: Climate refugees in Kiribati
Additionally, storm surges and high tides have flooded residential areas. The population of the island suffers from vitamin deficiencies, malnutrition, fish poisoning and other ailments resulting from food insecurity. Unemployment has surged in the region and diseases spread easily through overcrowding and poor quality drinking water.

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“Kiribati has thus become an untenable and violent environment for the author and his family,” the case argued. Scientists warn it could become uninhabitable within decades.

Teitota applied for refugee status in New Zealand after his visa expired in 2010. He was forced to return to Kiribati in September 2015 — putting his life and the lives of his family at risk, he said.

Teitota’s application was rejected, but he appealed, claiming the ruling violated his right to life. New Zealand’s Court of Appeal and Supreme Court each denied subsequent appeals, so he filed a complaint with the U.N.’s Human Rights Committee.

On Monday, the U.N. committee issued its judgment in the case. It ruled against Teitota — stating his life was not in immediate risk — but said that people in places where climate change poses an immediate threat to their lives could not be forced to return.

“The timeframe of 10 to 15 years, as suggested by the author, could allow for intervening acts by the Republic of Kiribati, with the assistance of the international community, to take affirmative measures to protect and, where necessary, relocate its population,” the ruling said.

READ ALSO: Croatia “Cruel and Violent” in Handling Migration

In the future, if the climate crisis continues, governments may be prohibited from sending people back to home countries that pose immediate threats to life due to climate change, the committee held, and potential human rights violations caused by climate change should be taken into account by nations considering the deportation of asylum seekers.

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“Without robust national and international efforts, the effects of climate change in receiving states may expose individuals to a violation of their rights,” the ruling said, citing articles 6 and 7 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, ensuring people’s inherent right to life.

While Kiribati’s current situation was not enough to meet the standards of an immediate threat to life, the decision could become significant as the number of climate refugees is projected to increase.

“The decision sets a global precedent,” said Kate Schuetze, Pacific researcher at Amnesty International. “It says a state will be in breach of its human rights obligations if it returns someone to a country where — due to the climate crisis — their life is at risk, or in danger of cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment.”

However, the ruling “would not apply to U.S. asylum decisions at this point, because the court ruled against the claimant,” reports CBS News’ Pamela Falk, “but it opens the door to courts hearing climate claims in the future.”

“It is powerfully symbolic,” a U.N. official told Falk.

The U.N. expects tens of millions of people to be displaced due to the climate crisis in the next decade alone. A 2018 World Bank report predicted that 143 million people from South Asia, Latin America and Sub-Saharan Africa could be forced to migrate due to climate conditions by 2050.

“The message is clear: Pacific Island states do not need to be underwater before triggering human rights obligations to protect the right to life,” said Schuetze.

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At the World Economic Forum in Davos on Tuesday, United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi told Reuters that the ruling has broad implications for governments.

“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 you would be at risk of your life, just like in a war or in a situation of persecution,” Grandi said.

Wildfires, rising sea levels, crop destruction and floods are just a few of the results of the climate crisis that could drive large numbers of people from their homes.

“We must be prepared for a large surge of people moving against their will,” he said. “I wouldn’t venture to talk about specific numbers, it’s too speculative, but certainly we’re talking about millions here.”

(www.cbsnews.com)

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Dominican Republic, IOM clear hurdles for 100,000 Venezuelan migrants

The Migration Normalization Plan will allow Venezuelans living irregularly in the Dominican Republic to work, move without risk of deportation, open bank accounts and join the country’s social security system.  Photo: IOM / Francesco Spotorno

 

 

Santo Domingo – The first group of almost 100,000 Venezuelan migrants without legal status in the Dominican Republic have received visas allowing them to work, open bank accounts and join the social security system under the country’s Migration Normalization Plan.

Created by the Dominican government and launched with the support of the International Organization for Migration (IOM), the plan aims to regularize the Venezuelan population in three stages: application for extension of stay, visa, and residency. Since April, when the first phase began, 43,000  Venezuelans have registered to extend their stay and, on 1 July, the first group of 21 Venezuelans received their work visa.

“Now that I have my visa, I feel that for others like me a lot of opportunities are opening. We will be able to establish more safely and formally to offer a better future to our children,” says Gabriela Rivero, who arrived in the country with her husband and daughter in 2018.  “Once we settled, we did not imagine how difficult it would be to get a job because the lack of documentation closed all doors.”

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Since 2019 Gabriela has led a support organization for Venezuelan migrants in Santiago de los Caballeros called FEV (Fundación Emigrantes de Venezuela), which offers free orientation and helps hundreds of migrants daily to complete their normalization plan applications.

With IOM support, eight Venezuelan migrant organizations have created orientation hubs to assist the Venezuelan population who are applying to the plan. Of the 43,000  registered through the General Directorate of Migration (DGM) web page, around 9,000 have visited the hubs for help on the procedure. The promoters and coordinators of each hub – mostly Venezuelan migrants – have learned the process with the support and guidance of the DGM team and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MIREX). Besides being trained for orientation, they became the pilot group of the plan to receive their extensions and visas.

“The idea of this process is that we are the ones at the front of the hubs, a migrant helping a migrant, a Venezuelan helping a Venezuelan,” says Iván Carrera, a lawyer from Caracas and legal adviser of FUNCOVERD (Fundación Colonia de Venezolanos en RD). Carrera works as a promoter at the orientation hub in El Sambil Santo Domingo, one of the locations with the most people requesting support for their application.

READ  Gavi, IOM join forces to improve immunization coverage for migrants

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IOM launches open South America portal

International Organisation of Migration (

Buenos Aires – IOM, the International Organization for Migration, this week launched the Open South America Portal, a web platform providing migrants and stakeholders in the region with access to reliable and timely information on human mobility restrictions and health and safety measures adopted by governments in the COVID-19 pandemic.

Open South America, available in SpanishEnglish and Portuguese, shares official information by country on the latest measures, including border restrictions, quarantine requirements and COVID-19 tests for migrants and travellers.

The portal also provides updated information on authorized entry points and key places for travellers and migrants, such as consulates, migrant care and health centres, airports, border crossings points and ports. This information can be explored through an interactive map.

The platform, funded by the IOM Development Fund, is also accessible to vulnerable migrants who may be stranded or are at risk of receiving misinformation on migration.

Since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, South America has been one of the most impacted regions worldwide. According to the World Health Organization figures, as of 8 July 2021 there were 33,475,765 COVID-19 cumulative cases in the region, which represents 89 per cent of the total cases in Latin America, and 18 per cent of all infections recorded globally.

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Countries such as Brazil, Peru, Colombia and Ecuador all experienced severe outbreaks. For example, Brazil currently reports the third highest number of cumulative cases (18,855,015) and second highest death toll (526,892) globally.

“Open South America will facilitate orderly, regular and responsible migration in South America amid the uncertain times of COVID-19 and after the pandemic,” said Minister Ana Laura Cachaza, General Director of Consular Affairs of the Government of Argentina.

“Migrants’ access to up-to-date information through innovative online tools is essential considering the changing migration dynamic in the region due to the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Marcelo Pisani, IOM Regional Director for South America.

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29,000 Nigerians, Ghanaians, Somalians, other Africans migrated through the Mediterranean Sea to Europe in 2021 —IOM

The International Organisation for Migration has said that 29,000 individuals including Nigerians, Ghanaians, Somalians and other Africans have emigrated to Europe through the Mediterranean Sea this year.

About 13,000 were arrested by the coast guards and returned home while 761 migrants were said to have perished in the sea.

Disclosing this to journalists in Abuja on Friday, the Chief of Mission, IOM Nigeria, Mr Franz Celestin, said less than five per cent of migrants usually made it to Europe, adding that the vast majority stay in Africa.

He further said that a lot of migrants were trafficked within the Economic Community of West African States, adding that Mali was the number one destination point for trafficked Nigerian women.

Responding to questions on the number of people who have undertaken the perilous trip to Europe through the Mediterranean, the IOM Chief said, “A combination of unemployment and underemployment is pushing people to migrate.

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“In this year, 29,000 migrants from Sub-Sahara Africa have migrated to Europe through the Mediterranean. About 13,000 were intercepted by the coastguard while 761 died.”

International Organisation of Migration (

Celestin stressed the importance of tackling human trafficking which he said grossed about $150 billion annually.

“Traffickers make a lot of money and they would continue to do it until a coordinated response is evolved to stop them. We are collaborating with Interpol in this respect; we are connected to the Interpol i/247 database. We connected the MIDAS to the Interpol database where we pass the information on traffickers to the Interpol,” he stated.

Celestin explained that the IOM has been involved in the biometric registration of children in the North-East, noting that the agency has registered no fewer than 17,053 children in 18 different internally displaced person camps between 2019 and May 2021 in Borno State.

The agency chief also disclosed that IOM was involved in the G7 Famine Prevention and Humanitarian Compact for North-East.

READ  Human trafficking generates billions in profit at the expense of victims- A-TIPSOM

 

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