Causes of mass migration 'must be addressed' as climate change threatens more displacement

UN Commissioner for Refugees calls for more support for those forced to flee homes

Filippo Grandi on what would make Cop28 a success

Filippo Grandi on what would make Cop28 a success
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Exporting refugees from the UK to Rwanda is a “dereliction of responsibility” that threatens to close off safe routes of asylum and fuel the menace of human trafficking, the UN Commissioner for Refugees has said.

Speaking on the sidelines of Cop28 in Dubai with The National's Editor in Chief, Mina Al-Oraibi, Filippo Grandi said the specific needs of those displaced due to climate change and conflict deserved to be recognised.

Mr Grandi, who has held his UN position since 2016, called on governments, foundations and the private sector for funding to support refugee camps around the world, as more people are forced to flee their homes.

Smugglers, traffickers, many of these horrible people are preying on the suffering of those on the move
Filippo Grandi, UN Commissioner for Refugees

“Displacement is very different for natural disasters; where we come in more regularly is where climate change generates conflict,” said Mr Grandi.

“It deprives poor communities of resources and communities start to fight. We've seen it in the Sahel, we see it very frequently in the Horn of Africa and in other places as well.

“If we don't change the course of this terrible emergency [climate change], we won't be able to solve the problems of those that are impacted at that very grass roots level,”

“We are against what we call externalisation of asylum.

“A foundation of the right to asylum is an asylum seeker has access to the territory of the country where he or she wants to seek asylum.

“We have taken a very firm position, for example, in respect of a proposal by the UK to externalise asylum to Rwanda. We thought that was an abdication of responsibility on the part of the UK.

“You can send people back to another country if that country is safe, that it offers guarantees that it can provide a safe and fair asylum process.”

While refugees have a recognised protection status due to human rights violations and persecution in their country of origin, an asylum seeker is someone looking for protection, but is not legally recognised as a refugee.

Eastern and Western Africa host the largest number of migrants, together accounting for almost 60 per cent of international migrants on the continent.

In 2022, it was estimated that 2,062 migrants died while crossing the Mediterranean Sea, with Libya, Tunisia, Egypt, and Algeria the main countries of departure.

“Smugglers, traffickers, many of these horrible people are preying on the suffering of those on the move,” said Mr Grandi.

“Unfortunately, they will continue to exist as it’s a big business.

“They have the impunity, they are not arrested, they are not thrown in jail, they are not tried.

“They have the space, so we have to compete. It's a terrible world but we have to create alternatives to their mechanism.”

Migration declaration

At Cop28 on Saturday, a delegation of African nations met to sign the Kampala Declaration to formally adopt new measures to tackle issues surrounding mass migration.

The directive aims to address the progressive land degradation creating forced mobility of people and livestock, limit unsustainable use of ecosystems and increase data on the impact of climate change across Africa.

Large pastoralist and subsistence farming communities are already on the move in East Africa, driven by changing weather patterns that have seen extreme climate events, drought in some areas, flooding elsewhere.

Speaking at the signing event, Beatrice Anywar, Uganda’s Environment Minister, told The National the effects of climate change on mass migration can no longer be overlooked.

“It has become glaringly true that climate change is forcing people to move from where they are to another a country like Uganda,” she said.

“We need to get to the root cause of why people are migrating.

“If we don't help countries like Uganda who are already hospitable and allowing refugees to embrace the country, this migration will find its way to undesired destinations.

“The earlier we solve this at the source, the better.”

Updated: December 02, 2023, 4:04 PM