Environmental refugees: what’s happening in the world?


A group of islands situated halfway between Australia and Hawaii, surrounded by palm trees, coral reefs, sandy .beaches and sea turtles. To many Tuvalu sounds like paradise, yet the islanders are desperate to find safety. Once well-populated settlements, the inhabitants have gradually all .moved onto one main island. The biggest of them all measures a mere 26 square kilometers, reducing .daily by the rising sea levels which have already made several smaller islands disappear. Within this small space lives 11000 people. but. but. but. but. but. but. but.

The sun creates so much heat that the inhabitants are unable to breathe on many days. The only shelter that they have is their home, which is battered by strong winds coming straight from the ocean.

Reliant on rainwater due to the toxic water from the coral, land that they are unable to plant on and fish that is poisoned from the reefs. Within a very short space of time, the islands will be submerged.

The community needs to find a new place to live but where do they go? but. but. but. 


Tuvalu islanders are not the only population facing this dilemma. In 2019, 1.8 million Syrians were displaced due to a water shortage, possibly exacerbated by mismanagement of the supplies. A further 1.6 million people from the Democratic of Congo faced relocation because of severe droughts. Here, the rainforests are beginning to turn brown and fishing boats are stuck upon shores. but. but. but. but. but. 

Additionally, the Australian bushfires this year, caused 25000 residents to become displaced, 18000 of these remain without a place to call home. The fires were worsened by the intense summer heat that has been reaching higher temperatures each year. but. but. but. but. 

These people are stuck in a system where they are unprotected, and they have no place to go. Though no fault of their own they are struggling to survive, reliant on International Aid for nourishment and clean water. but. but. but. and. but. but .but

The law but. but. but. but. 

As environmental or climate refugees do not always need to migrate across borders to find safety, they are not recognized by international law. These international politicians are concerned that opening the 1951 .Refugee Convention to cover natural disasters would weaken the meaning of a refugee. Therefore, the International efforts have been directed towards preventing the .need to relocate, rather than the relocation of those already in danger. 

There was hope that this would change when the United Nations heard a case for Ioane Teitiota who was asking for permission to be granted refugee status. Although Teitiota became famous for trying, Justice Priestly. ruled that to grant it would be to set a precedent. This would mean opening the doors to millions of people facing economic deprivation, natural or other environmental disasters. but.but.but.but.but.

The United Nations ruling was that his life was not at immediate risk and that within .the time it would take for it to be imminent, interventions may have prevented it. but. but. but. but. but.

 “The ruling says if you have an immediate threat to your life due to climate change, due to the climate emergency, and if you cross the border and go to another country, you should not be sent back because you would be at risk of your life, just like in a war or in a situation of persecution.” 

International Aid

The preventative measures that the United Nations has suggested may prevent .the immediate risk for life, includes the reduction of global warming. According to NASA, global warming is to blame for the rising sea levels, hurricanes, droughts, heatwaves and temperature rises that are causing millions of people to become desolate. but. but. but. but. but. but.

The UNHCR is attempting to address the climate change displacements, by offering legal advice and guidance safeguarding the rights of citizens are protected. They endeavor to ensure that there is a coherent policy covering all relevant areas. Undertaking research to ensure the smooth running of these policies and carry out activities to reduce the risk of displacement. 

Where the issue lies, is that the countries that are responsible for Global warming are .not the ones who are being detrimentally affected .by it and therefore the reason to act is not as strong, especially if the immediate .danger continues .to be unacknowledged. but. but. but. 

Who is responsible?

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, predict that there is a 95 percent probability that greenhouse gases such as. carbon dioxide, methane and nitrous oxide have caused these environmental changes. These gases are poured into the atmosphere by car emissions, powerplants and aerosols. but. but. but. but. but. but. but. but. but. but. but. but. but. but. but. 

The countries that cause the most damage are China, The U.S. India, Russia and Japan. One of these countries; The U.S. has begun withdrawing .from environmental treaties, has undone laws to reduce emissions and fuel economy. 

Why are we at a standstill?

Fuel, particularly fossil fuel extraction is the main .cause of greenhouse gas emissions. Australia, one of the countries .closest to Tuvalu, is the world’s largest coal producer and exporter of these fuels and it accounts .for 80 billion dollars in revenue for the country. Australia is also one of the countries whose immigration policies are the harshest, turning away refugees and .sending them to detention centers where human rights are claimed to be abusedbut. but. but. but. but. but. but. but. 

It does appear to be ironic that one of the countries which are causing the .biggest impact of global warming, is the one who is denying that global warming is leading .to the growth in environmental refugees. According to Inside Climate News, the Prime Minister states that they are already doing their part to .limit the emissions from their country and do not need to do more.

Is it too much to ask that those who cause the devastation of land, cultures .and livelihoods are held responsible for providing the victims with food, shelter and a place to call home?

Do you want to know more about the humanitarian crisis that we face? Check out our article about humanitarians at sea, and the rescue activities of refugees in the Mediterranean see.

Author: Janine S White

Educated in research, sociology and psychology, Janine has also .worked therapeutically and practically supporting individuals from varying backgrounds. Janine has a passion for .using her writing to .advocate on behalf of those affected by societal issues, raising awareness of misconceptions. but. but. but. but. but. 

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