Europe, a destination for climate migrants

According to a new study by researchers Anouch Missirian and Wolfram Schlenker, both linked to Columbia University, the number of migrants seeking asylum in the European Union will increase as the climate warms. Weather-induced conflicts in developing countries spill over to developed countries through asylum applications. The researchers have linked changes in weather to asylum applications and found out that when temperatures in the origin country deviated from a moderate optimum of around 20C, which is best for agriculture, asylum applications increased.

Climate models already show that climate change will result in more droughts, heat waves and other extreme weather. In addition, climate change causes more intense storms and rising sea levels. These events will impact food security, public health and migration.

VICE published a series of videos on the impact of climate change on food, ranging from the effects on Brazilian beef to Mexican coffee and the spread of fungus.

Doctors already say that climate change is the biggest threat to global health. Temperature rise will have a disastrous effect on human health. Patterns of infections would change, with insect-borne diseases such as malaria and dengue fever spreading more easily.

Already Europe is struggling to cope with the recent waves of migration that reaches the EU’s eastern and southern borders. Just as the European Union appeared to be stemming the flood of Syrian refugees, migration from Africa continued to surge, fuelled by the power vacuum that was left behind after the collapse of the Gadaffi regime in Libya. Since 2014, more than 400,000 migrants and refugees have crossed the Mediterranean from Libya to Italy. Unlike Syrians, most of whom have viable claims to refugee status under the 1951 Refugee Convention, a large portion of Africans moving to Europe are economic migrants seeking a better life and better jobs.

The EU managed to reduce the flow of Syrian refugees by striking a highly controversial deal with Turkey. This deal allowed Greece to return migrants back to Turkey. In return, the EU increased financial support for Turkey’s refugee population and provided greater visa liberalisation for Turkish nationals upon entering the EU. European leaders are eager to strike a similar deal with African leaders.

Europe is attractive and not only because of its prosperity. When facing climate change, Europe’s lower base temperatures and advanced infrastructure mean that damage caused by climate change could be contained, increasing its attractiveness as a destination for migrants. Schlenker stated that a rise in migration due to climate change could further exacerbate political tensions in the EU. “Europe is already conflicted about how many refugees to admit. Though poorer countries in hotter regions are most vulnerable to climate change, our findings highlight the extent to which countries are interlinked.”

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Rene Perey

Rene Perey