Thursday, March 15, 2012

Climate-Induced Migration a Growing Humanitarian Threat: Alertnet // Thin Lei Win

A resident retrieves belongings from the debris in a subdivision hit by flash floods brought by Typhoon Washi in Iligan city, southern Philippines, on December 19, 2011. REUTERS/Erik De Castro

Disaster-prone Asia Pacific will see a surge in climate-induced migration this century and governments need to start planning to avoid humanitarian crises caused by millions of people fleeing their homes, a new report by the Asian Development Bank (ADB) warned Tuesday.

Migration linked to climate change, a phenomenon that will “only become more pronounced in the coming years,” poses a growing humanitarian threat, said Addressing Climate Change and Migration in Asia Pacific.

The report, available in draft form last year, also said most migration in the region would be within national boundaries, and primarily from rural to urban areas. The movement, the bulk of which will involve poor people, is likely to be influenced by social, political and economic changes as well as climate pressures.

The report urged the region’s leaders to protect migrants, improve international cooperation on migrant issues, draw up more comprehensive systems to manage disaster risks, use migration as a tool to adapt to climate change and remove barriers to insurance schemes and remittances that help communities become more resilient.

“By taking actions today, governments can reduce the likelihood of future humanitarian crises” and maximise the possibilities that people can remain in their communities or, if they are forced to move, relocate to more secure places with livelihood options, the report noted.

"People have moved for environmental reasons since the beginning of time. What has changed lately is the policy awareness about it and also how much climate change aggravates this tendency,” said Dina Ionesco, migration policy officer for the International Organisation for Migration (IOM), at the report’s launch in Bangkok.

According to IOM, currently there are around 200 million international migrants worldwide and over 700 million internal migrants, most of them economic migrants.


Storms, floods and other extreme weather events in Asia Pacific displaced more than 42 million people in the past two years, a share of whom became migrants, either unable to return home or opting to relocate, the report said.

The figure does not include those who moved due to slow environmental changes such as desertification, rising sea levels or coastal erosions, problems nations like the the Maldives or Papua New Guinea in particular have suffered.

This problem is only going to get worse. As sea levels rise millions in  Southeast Asia and the Pacific will be displaced. How will the world cope?

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