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Climate Change Where to Place the Displaced?

Climate Change Where to Place the Displaced?

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Climate Change Where to Place the Displaced?

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  1. Climate ChangeWhere to Place the Displaced? Sonia Caton Coordinator/Principal Solicitor Refugee and Immigration Legal Service (RAILS)

  2. Low Lying Areas at High Risk • Last year Bangladesh devastated by Cyclone Sidr • Cyclone Nigris devastated the Irrawaddy Delta in Burma • Tuvalu/Carteret Islands likely to be submerged within 15 years • Climate change occurring faster than any other time in history – challenge to adapt faster RAILS 2008

  3. Global Context • World population growth about 80 million/year. • About 98% of growth in ‘developing’ world • In next 30 years Asia’s population will increase by over 1 billion. RAILS 2008

  4. TODAY • 10 million refugees • 25 million internally displaced people from conflict • 25 million ‘IDP’s from natural disaster • 20 million children are refugees or IDP’s - UNHCR RAILS 2008

  5. Projected numbers of Climate ‘Refugees’ • At risk due to sea level rise – 162 to 250 million by 2050(Meyer 2002, pp 609&611 quoted in Biermann and Boas 2007, pp 9-10.) • Climate refugees from Bangladesh alone will outnumber all current refugees worldwide RAILS 2008

  6. Australian migration, an update:- Source countries for migration intake- Migration intake levels RAILS 2008

  7. 2006 - 2007 Arrivals = 140,148 NEW ZEALAND 23906 UNITED KINGDOM 23223 INDIA 13496 CHINA 12009 PHILIPPEANS 5561 SOUTH AFRICA 3996 VIETNAM 3135 MALAYSIA 2899 SRI LANKA 2721 SUDAN 2513 RAILS 2008

  8. 2008-09 Migration Program Total Intake - 190,300 Skilled - 133,500 places Generally young, have recognised work skills and speak English well. Family - 56,500 places Sponsored spouses, fiancées, natural and adopted dependent, children, parents, last remaining relatives, carers etc. RAILS 2008

  9. Refugee - 6,400 placesPeople outside country of origin. Proven well-founded fear of persecution.Special Humanitarian Program - 7,000 placesDrawn equally from Africa, Middle East and Asia. Outside of country of origin, suffered human rights abuses. Must be proposed by Australian Perm. Resident / citizen RAILS 2008

  10. 2006-07 Refugee and Humanitarian Program • 13,017 visas granted • 11,186 Off-shore • 1,831 On-shore • Top 10 countries of origin Sudan, Iraq, Afghanistan, Burma, Burundi, Congo Liberia, Sierra Leone, Eritrea, Iran. RAILS 2008

  11. FACT 7% of Australians have now either been through the refugee experience or have a parent or grandparent who has. RAILS 2008

  12. Settlement success can depend on:Degree of similarity between original and new culture- Preparation prior to arrival- Age and educational level-Attitudes RAILS 2008

  13. Courier Mail 18 August 2007 RAILS 2008

  14. Our Obligations? • Refugee • Article 1A Refugee Convention 1951 • Well founded fear of persecution • race, • religion, • nationality, • social group • political opinion • Outside the country of nationality • unable or, owing to fear • unwilling to avail themself of the protection of that country; RAILS 2008

  15. UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (RIO 1992) • All Parties shall “Take climate change considerations into account to the extent feasible, in their relevant social, economic and environmental policies and actions…” Article 4.1(f) • And Article 4.4 “The developed country Parties and other developed Parties…..shall also assist the developing country Parties that are particularly vulnerable to the adverse effects of climate change in meeting costs of adaptation to those adverse effects” RAILS 2008

  16. Protection of the environment and environmental law linked to numerous human rights. • 2007, the Inuit lodged a claim with the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights in which they say the impacts of global warming caused by “acts and omissions of the US”, has violated their fundamental human rights. Dr Jane McAdam • Loss of ice equates to loss of habitat, means of subsistence, culture. RAILS 2008

  17. Some Rights in UN Conventions • Right to life – Art. 3 UDHR and Art. 6(1) ICCPR • Right to culture – 2007 UNDRIP • Right not to be subjected to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment – ICCPR • Right to an adequate standard of living – Art. 11(1) ICESCR • Right not to be deprived of means of subsistence • Right to enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of physical and mental health – Art. 12a ICESCR, Art 25 UDHR • Human rights tribunals - 'the use and enjoyment of the land and its resources are integral components of the physical and cultural survival of the indigenous communities'.Source Dr Jane McAdam RAILS 2008

  18. UN Conventions only binding on countries that are signatories and have ratified them • UN Conventions do not contain enforcement mechanisms. Reporting and Special Rapporteur role; moral judgement of international community. • UN Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment • International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights • International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights • UN Convention on Biodiversity RAILS 2008

  19. Protection for Climate ‘Refugees’? • No legal protection as yet • Responsibility largely falls to home countries • Emissions per capita (climate change causation) very high from a selected few wealthy countries – moral link RAILS 2008

  20. Tensions • Governments and humanitarian organizations are revisiting the meaning of ‘refugee’ •  Is an internally displaced person or someone outside their country due to environmental factors a ‘refugee’? RAILS 2008

  21. United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) increasingly assisting ‘IDP’s yet not mandated for this. • Preferred solutions for refugees: • repatriation as soon as possible; • integration in the country of first asylum; • resettlement in a third country. RAILS 2008

  22. Waiting for repatriation, integration or resettlement often means living for decades in unsanitary camps / detention centers RAILS 2008

  23. Proposed Labor Policy (Extract) • “Australia should..accept climate change refugees as part of our humanitarian immigration program”. • “Australia should..ensure appropriate recognition of climate change refugees in existing Conventions, or through the establishment of a new convention on climate change refugees.” p. 10 ‘Our Drowning Neighbours’ ALP Policy Discussion paper 2006 RAILS 2008

  24. Endorsed Labor Policyno mention of ‘refugee’ or ‘displaced’ • Develop Pacific Climate Change Strategy • Assistance with intra-country evacuations; • Establish Pacific Climate Change Alliance; • Establish Pacific Climate Centre p4 Federal Labors Plan for International Development and Climate Change 24 July 2007 RAILS 2008

  25. Past Government • At Senate Estimates committee hearings (Nov ‘06, Feb ‘ 07, May ‘07) the Department of Immigration and Citizenship admitted they had not conducted any research into the likely migration impact of climate change and would manage any such need on an ad hoc basis. Website of Senator Kerry Nettle 2008 RAILS 2008

  26. What is present Govt. doing? 28 May2008, Senate Estimates Committee Senator NETTLE-I want to ask another general question in relation to climate refugees: is there any update to give the committee on the work that the department or thegovernment are doing on the issue? Senator Chris Evans-Apparently Mr Hughes is the world expert. Mr Hughes-I will not claim to be that, but we have had discussions on this in the past. I think one issue inanother portfolio that you are probably aware of, Senator Nettle, is government commitment to funding for thePacific climate change strategy, which is not through this portfolio. The one new thing I can add to what I said RAILS 2008

  27. to you in February is that, through the Commonwealth-state officials process for immigration and multicultural affairs, there has been agreement to a research project todo a literature survey on literature relating to climate change and displacement of people in the Pacific. Weexpect that to be completed throughout this year. Senator NETTLE-Who is involved in doing that? Mr Hughes-The Commonwealth-State officials and ministers process for immigration and multicultural affairs has a small joint research capacity, where there is a smallprogram of research usually agreed to every year. I am not quite sure precisely how we will implement the decisionto do it, but I think primarily it will be done by officers of our department in conjunction with interested statesand territories. RAILS 2008

  28. Senator Chris Evans- Can I indicate thatthe question of climate change and climate refugees is on the agenda for our ministerial council meeting on 4 July. Obviously all thestates are represented, but also New Zealand is attending. So there is some interest in that area, and it will be considered as part of that meeting as well. Senator NETTLE-That was immigration ministers? Senator Chris Evans-They are more multicultural affairs ministers in other states that have immigration responsibility. The New Zealand representative will bring with him immigration responsibilities, but the stateministers are generally responsible for multicultural affairs; those interested in settlement and those sorts of issues. RAILS 2008

  29. NZ Approach • The Pacific Access Category (PAC) introduced in July 2002. • Offers permanent residence. • 75 residents from Tuvalu and Kiribati each and 350 from Tonga • Selected each year by ballot RAILS 2008

  30. PAC Shortfalls • No acknowledgement that originated as a response to displacement by climate change • Must be between 18 and 45; • offer of full-time employment; • minimum level of English; • minimum income requirement if have a dependant; • meet certain health and character criteria RAILS 2008

  31. Ballots not filled • The elderly, young, sickly and poor don’t qualify as primary applicants. • Acceptable offer of employment = “permanent, full-time, genuine, and paid by a salary or wages”. • Training not available on some islands. • Difficult to find offer of permanent full-time employment. RAILS 2008

  32. The Way Forward • As yet no consensus definition of ‘Climate refugees’ • Australia ideally placed to lead the way in constructing an international burden sharing arrangement that provides for displaced people both within and across national borders. RAILS 2008

  33. An alternative solution? • A UN Protocol on Recognition, Protection and Resettlement of Climate Refugees (Climate Refugee Protocol) to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change? (F. Biermann and I. Boas, 2007, p.26) RAILS 2008

  34. One Proposed Definition of climate ‘refugee’ • “People who have had to leave their habitats, immediately or in the near future, because of sudden or gradual alterations in their natural environment related to at least one of three impacts of climate change:sea-level rise, extreme weather events, drought and water scarcity” (Biermann and Boas, 2007, p.8) RAILS 2008

  35. Australia - Migration Amendment (Climate Refugees) Bill 2007 • Defined climate refugees as “displaced persons due to environmental disaster that results from both incremental and rapid ecological and climactic change and disruption that includes sea level rise, coastal erosion, desertification, collapsing ecosystems, fresh water contamination, more frequent occurrence of extreme weather events such as cyclones, tornados, flooding and drought; that mean inhabitants are unable to lead safe or sustainable lives in their immediate environment”. RAILS 2008

  36. Bill gave Immigration Minister power to make a ‘climate change induced environmental disaster’declaration. • Minister to consider the geographical scope of the disaster; possibilities for adaptation and the long-term sustainability of the area; capacity of the country and neighbouring countries to absorbed displaced persons; other international efforts to assist. • Could set the number of visas issued to people displaced by a declared disaster. RAILS 2008

  37. Conclusion • Australia’s response to population displacement in the Asia-Pacific Region through sea-level rise is incrementally progressing, but given urgency and complexity of the challenge, should there be a dedicated agency coordinating a multi-disciplinary/multi-national approach? • Australia has knowledge, experience, resources to take the regional lead. • There is strong moral argument that it should do so. RAILS 2008