IIT Madras urges countries to absorb people fleeing due to climate change

With climate change intensifying the push to migrate, researchers at the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) Madras on Thursday urged countries to absorb all asylum seekers.

The researchers asked countries to absorb the people fleeing due to the impact of climate change under the principle of “non refoulement”.

“This will ensure that refugees are not forced to return to their home countries to face harm,” the institute shared in a statement.

Non-refoulement is a fundamental principle of international law that forbids a country receiving asylum seekers from returning them to a country in which they would be in likely danger of persecution based on “race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group or political opinion”.

Further, proposing a normative framework with responses to address cross-border migration, published in the peer-reviewed journal WIRES Climate Change, the researchers noted that the asylum seekers from vulnerable zones must be absorbed in host countries in proportion to their greenhouse gas emissions.

They stated that given the severity of the anticipated global environmental changes and associated harms, taking early and appropriate action is vital.

However, the question ‘did this person migrate because of climate change?’ may never be fully answered.

“In recent years, the increased risks of environmental hazards including climate change, have intensified the push to migrate. One such case is the teeming slums of Bangladesh’s capital Dhaka, where the residents are on the frontlines of a climate crisis,” said Prof. Sudhir Chella Rajan, Department of Humanities and Social Sciences, IIT Madras, in the statement.

“People living along the coast have been migrating to the Bangladeshi capital due to monsoon flooding and cyclones caused by rising sea levels. For these residents, the worsening climate change is not a faraway threat. It is a grim reality,” he added.

Climate scientists have known for more than a decade that tens of millions of people, if not more, will be forcibly displaced from some of the poorest countries as a result of climate change.

The study pointed to data from the global non-profit Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre, which showed that 40.5 million people were newly displaced in 2020 and 30 million among these were forcibly displaced due to weather-related disasters.

“If their countries are no longer viable homes through no fault of their own, the international community has a moral responsibility to provide refuge,” Rajan said.

The researchers said there is absence of a coherent institutional and legal framework at international and national level to protect the rights of climate exiles. This creates an urgent need to work on international law to protect climate exiles.




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