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Migration to worsen in the Pacific if nothing is done

The speakers at the report launch here in Bonn yesterday. Photo: NUKU'ALOFA TIMES

By ILIESA TORA (Compliments of DW Academy/UNFCC)

BONN, Germany – November 9: 3pm (Nuku’alofa Times): More Pacific Islanders will be migrating out of their homeland if nothing is done and no action taken to stop the continuing challenges of Climate Change.

A new report, titled ‘Migration and Human Rights in the Wake of Climate Change’, launched yesterday at the COP23 Bula Zone here in Bonn stated that human rights needs to be at the focus of climate change migration.

And the report states that the existence of different laws –mainly state and coustomary laws – in many Pacific Islands is also becoming a stumbling block on issues related to migration and human rights.

The report was put together by the United Nations University and the Institute of Environment and Human Society (UNU-EHS).

This followed research carried out in Fiji and Vanuatu.

A statement from the two organisations said that “as world leaders gather in Bonn for the UN Climate Conference COP23 under the presidency of Fiji, on the Pacific Islands climate change is already affecting people’s lives. It is here that, the implementation of the Paris Climate Agreement is most pressing. Despite the early ratification of the agreement by all of the island states, application on the ground is proving challenging”.

The report said one of the biggest stumbling block is the use of two different sets of laws in some of the island states.

“How people make their migration decision and how host communities welcome newcomers largely depends on their community’s value system which is deeply rooted in the local custom law,” Dr Cosmin Corendea, Senior Legal Expert at UNU-EHS and author of the report said.

“We are seeing in our research that the legal adaptation at the state level does not necessarily have a strong impact at the community level, where the traditional beliefs and values are rooted in the custom law, which shapes village life.”

The Senior International Relation Expert at the University of the South Pacific’s Suva campus Dr Wesley Morgan, said island communities have stronger traditional ties to their land.

“Island communities have deep connections with their land and oceans and relocation is generally considered an option of last resort,” Dr Morgan said.

“Nonetheless, for some communities, the only way to adapt to climate change is to move. It is important that both national and regional policy frameworks are established that take into account local realities, and allow people to relocate in a way that respects their human rights, and acknowledges their essential human dignity.”

Climate change related environmental hazards are now impacting majority of households in the Pacific.

More than 90% of households in Kiribati and Tuvalu were affected by climate related hazards between 2005 and 2015.

Three quarters of households in Nauru were affected in the same period.

Without the option of moving internationally, migrating populations are increasingly assembling in the urban centres of South Tarawa in Kiribati and Funafuti in Tuvalu respectively.

Senior Migration Expert at the UNU-EHS Dr Robert Oaskes said Pacific people will migrate more in the future.

“People in the Pacific will migrate in increasingly large numbers due to environmental stressors,” he said.

Meanwhile, key findings from studies carried out on Kiribati, Nauru and Tuvalu saw that increasing sea levels, saltwater intrusion and drought were the common environmental hazards their people faced.

Today, 14% of migrants in Kiribati and 9% in Tuvalu named environmental changes as a reason for migration decisions.

Interestingly statistics gathered indicated that:

1. Environmental hazards is a reason for migration for people in Kiribati, Nauru and Tuvalu who were surveyed. That gave 12% of people migrating because of environmental hazards across the three island countries, compared to 38% for work, 31% for education and 19% for health and medical reasons.

2. Only 26% of people across Kiribati, Nauru and Tuvalu would have the finance to migrate, showing that most potential Pacific migrants will not have the financial means.

3. The median per capita monthly income in the three countries was $12

4. In Nauru more than 40% of the 155 households interviewed fill that migration will be a likely option if sea level rise or flooding worsens.

5. More than 70% of the 377 households interviewed on Kiribati will migrate if agricultural production becomes more difficult or if sea level rise, flooding and saltwater intrusion worsens.

6. More than the 320 households interviewed on Tuvalu will migrate if sea level rise, flooding, salt water intrusion or droughts become more severe.

7. 24% of Nauruans say they will opt to migrate to Australia while 45% say they will go to Fiji.

8. Kiribati’s surveyed population said 21% have Fiji as their first option for migration while 24% named New Zealand as their choice.

9. For Tuvalu a total of 63% of their surveyed population will opt for Fiji while 16% will go to New Zealand.

Interestingly, 1.3% of Kiribati’s 108,800 people have moved internationally either to New Zealand or Australia, with 7.7% having moved internally, relocating to other places. A total of 9% can’t move anywhere because they do not have the finance.

Of Nauru’s 10,084 population a total of 10% have moved overseas, while 7% can’t move for various reasons.

Tuvalu has seen 15% of her people moving out of the country, while 12% have relocated internally to other places.

A total of 8% could not move anywhere.

#COP23 #UNUEHS #Uniting4Climate #PacificSurvival

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