Mass migration due to climate change is not just a problem for decades to come – crowds of people are already being forced to flee their homes due to climate change and rising sea levels. The World Bank reports that more than 200 million people will be forced to flee by 2050. The problem of climate refugees could lead to serious political, humanitarian and economic crises – but what about the law?
Climate change and refugee law
Refugee law and migration are regulated primarily at the level of international law, and a number of UN and other conventions address the issue. One of the most important international instruments is the Geneva Convention on Asylum , which has been signed by 145 states, including Hungary. The Convention is, in fact, the cornerstone of asylum law, regulating the issue almost comprehensively: it defines the concept of refugee, as well as the conditions for applying for asylum and the obligations of the host state. However, the convention adopted in 1951 was well ahead of the panic caused by climate change, so there is not a word specifically about climate refugees.
Under the Convention, a person is considered to be a refugee because of his or her well-founded fear of persecution on the grounds of race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group or political opinion. The concept of a refugee therefore essentially includes persons who, because of their protected value, are in imminent danger of persecution – so climate refugees do not fall into this definition at all.
Climate refugees can therefore only rely on general human rights rules. The most important of these is the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (“ ICCPR ”). ICCPR 6. Article 5 states the fundamental right of a person to life, according to which no one shall be arbitrarily deprived of his life. As a result, it is forbidden to return a refugee to an area where his or her life is in immediate and immediate danger.
The case of a climate refugee
The case law on the application of such a right to life is still rather limited. Ioane Teitiota, a resident of the island of Kiribati, tried to stay in New Zealand on this title. Thousands of refugees from Kiribati, off the coast of New Zealand, are arriving in Australia and New Zealand, as the archipelago In 15 years, it will become completely uninhabitable, and the organization of everyday life is already facing serious difficulties. The wells are polluted with salt water, the lands have become infertile, and due to frequent flooding, the infrastructural conditions are of unsatisfactory quality.
However, the Supreme Court of New Zealand did not accept the refugee’s argument. The Supreme Court reasoned that, in the absence of an immediate and immediate danger, Mr Teitiota could not successfully rely on Article 6 of the ICCPR. his return to Kiribati would not have been directly endangered. The imminent threat to life would only occur in 15 years, when the causal chain could be broken by a number of events, such as an international rescue operation or the internal reorganization of the state of Kiribati.
However, it is worth bearing in mind that the judgment itself states that if the situation in the island nation continues to deteriorate and its government is unable to take substantive action and protect the quality of life of islanders with international assistance, New Zealand will have an international legal obligation to accept a similar situation. refugees.
Citing climate change alone cannot lead to better economic conditions
Another problem with climate change and refugee law is that many people will want to get better economic conditions under the guise of it. This is why this issue will pose very serious challenges for the international community and legislators for the next hundred years. An increasing number of Third World people will not even have access to adequate drinking water, let alone food. This situation will be exacerbated by global warming and the climate crisis. Developed societies, of course, do not want to open their doors indefinitely to billions of people. A sensible solution will be to deal with the problems at the local level.
The future of climate change and refugee law
The fact that the current international legal framework is ill-suited to tackling the refugee crisis caused by climate change does not mean that it should remain so. However, in the current political context, experts are reluctant to open the Geneva Convention for amendment, fearing that governments would narrow down the concept of refugee rather than extend it in the right direction.
It is also clear from the above that tackling climate change is in our common interest. However, this requires an unprecedented level of global cooperation between governments, market players and civil society.