Yes! A battle brewing over climate “refugees”

Update December 6th:  “Climate Refugee” documentary film to be shown in Copenhagen, here.

It is snowing like crazy here in Maryland today—very early in the season for us to have any measurable snow—and I’m enjoying a little laugh over the coming battle of two leftwing titans over the issue of refugees.  (I love it when leftwing causes collide!)  On the one hand are the humanitarians (neo-liberals really for the most part, that is what the head of the Communist Party USA calls them anyway) who have no desire to open any can of worms by revisiting the UN’s 1951 convention on refugees and risking diluting or diminishing protection for persecuted peoples. And, and on the other, we have the Marxist/open borders/redistributionists who are hell-bent on making the rich pay for that evil malady called global warming—not to mention that a climate crisis is the shortest route to a one-world government.

This article from the UK Guardian entitled, “UK should open borders to climate refugees, says Bangladeshi minister,” gives us a hint of what is in the offing.   Oh, and it’s not just the UK that should open its borders, rest assured they mean the US, Australia, New Zealand and the all of the  EU too!

Up to 20 million Bangladeshis [Muslims] may be forced to leave the country in the next 40 years because of climate change, one of the country’s most senior politicians has said. Abul Maal Abdul Muhith, Bangladesh’s finance minister, called on Britain and other wealthy countries to accept millions of displaced people.

In a clear signal to the US and Europe that developing countries are not prepared to accept a weak deal at next week’s Copenhagen climate summit, Abdul Muhith said Bangladesh wanted hosts for managed migration as people began to abandon flooded and storm-damaged coastal areas.

“Twenty million people could be displaced [in Bangladesh] by the middle of the century,” Abdul Muhith told the Guardian. “We are asking all our development partners to honour the natural right of persons to migrate. We can’t accommodate all these people – this is already the densest [populated] country in the world,” he said.

He called on the UN to redefine international law to give climate refugees the same protection as people fleeing political repression. “The convention on refugees could be revised to protect people. It’s been through other revisions, so this should be possible,” he said.

There it is, in that paragraph above, the crux of the problem that has got to be causing the present “refugee regime” to be shaking in its collective boots!

Worries of a backlash (no kidding!)

Douglas Alexander, the international development secretary, said: “As the largest international donor to Bangladesh, Britain has been urging the international community to provide extra money for climate change adaptation.” But Jean-Francois Durieux, who is in charge of climate migration at the UN refugee agency, cautioned against reworking the UN convention on refugees.

“The risk of mass migration needs to be managed. It’s absolutely legitimate for Bangladesh and the Maldives to make a lot of noise about the very real risk of climate migration – they hope it will make us come to their rescue. But reopening the 1951 convention would certainly result in a tightening of its protections.”

He said there was a danger of a backlash in rich countries. “The climate in Europe, North America and Australia is not conducive to a relaxed debate about increasing migration. There is a worry doors will shut if we start that discussion,” he said.

There is extreme sensitivity about adapting the UN convention on refugees. A UNHCR report in August warned: “In the current political environment, it could result in a lowering of protection standards for refugees and even undermine the international refugee protection regime altogether.”

Watching advocacy groups like Refugees International squirm!

What to do? What to do?  How about if we head this off by not calling the climate “refugees” refugees, and instead call for a NEW legal framework for climate displaced people—whew!  Here is a bit from yesterday’s Refugees International’s press release on protecting the “displaced” people:

Refugees International believes that discussions need to begin now on the creation of an international legal framework that will protect people displaced across international borders by climate change who are not eligible for refugee status under the 1951 Refugee Convention.

Conveniently, Refugees International is set to tap into this whole new market of people who need to be moved around the world (not to mention the potential for fundraising) since in August they set up the Ken and Darcy Bacon Center for the Study of Climate Displacement, here.

But whatever you do, do not call them “climate refugees!” says acting President Joel Charny:

The 1951 Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees defines a refugee as someone who is outside the country of her or his nationality “owing to well-founded fear of being persecuted for reasons of race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group or political opinion.” While in the succeeding decades fleeing conflict has become an accepted rationale for claiming international protection, flight from natural disasters has not. Thus, under international refugee law there can be no “climate refugees.”

Indeed, the term points to a gap in the global protection regime that will have to be addressed if climate change has anywhere near the profound impact currently projected. While a change in the Refugee Convention itself may not be warranted (or achievable), an agreed international framework recognizing that hundreds of thousands of people may need temporary protection in neighboring countries [Edit: Neighboring countries?  They are talking about permanent mass migration to first world countries halfway around the world!] as the result of large-scale climatic events will be necessary.


… there is no easy solution to the muddle on terminology. What is the alternative to climate refugees? People displaced by climate change (PDCCs)? Climate displaced people (CDPs)? People affected by climatic events (PACEs)? Once again — as with internally displaced people (vs. the incorrect, misses the whole point “internal refugees”) — rigor gets in the way of directness. But Refugees International has no choice but to stand with the pedants and ban climate refugees from our style book.

You could say we (at RRW) are pedants too!  By insisting on continuing to use the phrase “climate refugees” we can further demonstrate how silly all this has become. It is only too bad more of the general public doesn’t understand that they could have hordes of Bangladeshis in their neighborhoods because supposedly the sea is rising by an inch per century (or whatever the latest prediction is!).

Climate refugee, climate, refugee, climate refugee!

See our category on CLIMATE REFUGEES here.  And, did I mention we have 12 posts in the CLIMATE REFUGEE category?

A little later on December 5th:  Here is a sensible article in a UN publication that says there won’t likely be any mass migration from climate change—any change will be slow IF there is global warming occurring.  The author says people will not move far from home and with the loss of a little land here or there will come the gain of a little land that previously was too cold to be productive.

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