By Sakhawat Sajjat Sejan
“Migrants and Refugees are not pawns on the chessboard of humanity.”
Refugees, migrants and displaced persons are recognized and safeguarded under the provisions of The Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees 1951 with the mechanisms of UNHCR as well as other International Agencies. When the word ‘Climate’ soars before the titles of above-stated stakeholders and there subsist immense chasm of legal frameworks and policies. Further, there are contentions regarding the definition of the climate-induced displaced persons; whether they shall be termed as ‘Climate Refugees’ or ‘Environmental Refugees’. Apart from this, 21.5 million people in the globe are being forcibly displaced due to climate-related rapid onset hazards as well as slow-onset hazards, which may increase to 50 million if necessary measures are not adopted. Those displaced persons are not even entitled to any legal right as they are not recognized under Article 1 of The Refugee Convention 1951. As the inhabitants of the mother earth are making the refugees, then it’s the responsibility of all states to conserve them.
The situation is worsening in the world due to the increase of Carbon emission. Flood, storms, Hurricanes, Drought and other related natural disasters often visit with a bucket full of miseries in the disaster-prone countries especially for a country like Bangladesh. According to the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), the amount of climate-induced displaced persons in Bangladesh will be 15 million by 2050. This depicts a clear threat to the country and alarms the Government for protecting its economy, agricultural resources and also its inhabitants.But for inflicting protection we need the legal term that defines the displaced persons, which is yet to be given by the International organizations. If Climate-Induced Migrants are included under the definition of Refugees of The Refugee Convention-1951, then regular refugees; made due to persecution won’t be able to avail their rights as it would be a paradox to distinguish between them.Further, they do not meet the threshold of persecution as required under the abovementioned convention. And also the environmental or climate-induced migrants do not migrate due to persecution by a persecutor, who was supposed to be their government. Rather they seek refuge inside or outside the territory of a country, which makes the task of definition more complex. In terms of climate change migration, the ‘tipping-point’ would be difficult to define, which may be annexed with other reasons of displacement. As a result, it would be difficult to define the actual reasons of displacement during Climate perplexed rapid-onset and slow-onset events. Side by side, no other instrument of international law i.e. International Environmental Law, International Human Rights Law or International Law on Stateless persons has reached the periphery to include the climate-induced migrants under any regulation or supervision. Nevertheless, the 1951 Refugees Convention has a beneficial grade to offer fresh protection oriented instrument namely the forward-looking assessment of potential future harm; a prerequisite by which climate induced migrants would fulfill the degree to avail the means of protection. This is the scenario in Blackletters. When we try to perceive the actual results of climate change in Bangladesh, this may give us a notion of surprise that, Bangladesh is among the 10 vulnerable nations affected (will be affected) by climate change according to the German Watch Global Climate Index Report. According to the prediction of International Panel Climate Change within 2050 Bangladesh will lose 17.5% of its lands, which includes 30% of food production lands. That will surely make thousands of people homeless, foodless, employment less; as well as render economic boom and food shortage in the country. Sea-level rise is the sole reason behind all these miseries, which till now displaced 40 million people in the country. In spite of all odds, those people displaced so far are wandering across the country without any recognition and basic amenities, which causing more harm to the country through various social malfunctions.
As Bangladesh doesn’t also have any domestic instrument to recognize the climate induced migrants, the issue has become more sensitive to deal with. Side by side, Bangladesh is not a party to the ‘Refugee Convention-1951’ and Protocol-1967 of the same convention as well as ‘The Guiding Principle on Internal Displacement-1997’.This rehashes the situation far graver as Bangladesh is out of the ambit of international regulation. And a question soars, whether Bangladesh would be able to protect the ‘Environmental Migrants’ with food, shelter, security and with other basic necessities in her womb!
Still a light of hope may be inculcated after scrutinizing the efforts of Bangladeshi government in terms of the soft legal frameworks. After the adoption of National Adaptation Programme of Action (NAPA) by United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCC) Bangladesh has placed the same in the domestic policies of it to regulate the ‘Environmental Migrants’.Further, Ministry of Environment and Forests has mandated Bangladesh Climate Change Strategy and Action Plan (BCCSAP) under NAPA with 44 programs on a Short-term and Long-term basis for the protection of ‘Climate-Induced Migrants’. And the faith of these two action plans has submerged among the crowd of hundreds of policies of the Government’s pertaining to Vision’21. The ‘Climate Induced Migrants’ have received near to nothing, neither the protection of law nor the healthy way of life. And it would be a great regret to mention that Bangladesh has no other instrument to protect them; when Bangladesh itself is prone to the impacts of Climate Change.So, to conserve the ‘Climate-Induced Migrants’, resolutions and policies should be adopted by the world as well as by Bangladesh government.
At the very first instance, the climate-induced refugees should be recognized under ‘The Refugee Convention 1951 as ‘Environmental Migrants’ (Which includes Climate-Induced refugees, migrants, internally and externally displaced person) to provide them the global rights of the refugees. And then Bangladesh should ratify ‘The Refugee Convention-1951 and Protocol-1967 of the same convention as well as ‘Guiding Principles on Internal Displacement-1998’. ‘National Adaptation Programme of Action should be made compulsory with the inclusion of a new regulation or ‘Act’ recognizing the ‘Environmental Migrants’. They should be equipped with food, shelter, primary health care and hygiene water etc. after displacement. ‘Temporary Protection Directive’ may be adopted in Bangladesh Climate Change Strategy and Action Plan (BCCSAP) for immediate protection. States may promote responsibility sharing to combat the impact of climate change and the outcomes of it. Bangladesh government should strengthen aid to the disaster-prone areas of the country and replace the people living in disaster-prone areas to better and safer living places. Nonetheless, Bangladesh being one of the most vulnerable countries should raise the voice in International agencies for protecting the environment and the ‘Environmental Migrants’.