“It’s the greatest injustice of climate change, those least responsible for causing the crisis are the first to suffer” Friends of the Earth call for change in legal status of refugees

20th September 2016
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Friends of the Earth is calling on Theresa May to address the increasing link between climate change and human migration ahead of the UN General Assembly’s high-level summit to address the movement of refugees and migrants in New York.

World leaders at the UN Summit have missed a huge opportunity to begin the process to codify the term ‘climate refugee’ and put it into law. Doing this would provide legal protection for climate induced migration: people forced to move for safety and survival because of the effects of climate change.

The current draft declaration has been widely condemned by global civil society for failing to offer any meaningful action on upholding existing legal obligations and the responsibility of richer countries.

Asad Rehman,  Friends of the Earth climate campaigner, said:

“Theresa May has said: ‘We cannot simply focus on treating the symptoms of this crisis, we need to address its root causes too.'”If she was serious, then she should recognise that we have just witnessed a record-breaking 14 consecutive months of the hottest global temperatures since records began. These temperatures are making homes inhospitable, farmland unproductive, it dries up water, and contributes to unrest which all too often results in war.

Given dire circumstances people will naturally and obviously move to survive.”The greatest injustice of climate change, is that those who are the least responsible for causing the climate crisis, are the first to suffer and those most responsible are the first to turn their backs. “A lack of legal options for seeking safe haven, simply leads to tragedy. 3,500 people drowned trying to cross the Mediterranean last year, with nearly 800 drowning in one week in May this year. Something has to change, we must take in our fair share of existing refugees and extend protection to those who currently have no legal protection.

”Friends of the Earth is critical of governments, including that of the U.K, who are pulling up the drawbridge and refusing to give assistance to millions of people dealing with the impacts of environmental and climate pollution, preferring to label people economic migrants with no legal protection. This is why Friends of the Earth is calling on the UN General Assembly to begin discussions on climate change and its increasing role as a driver of migration and displacement of people, and produce concrete outcomes that will save the lives of those in need.

For press information please contact the Friends of the Earth media team on 020 7566 1649.

Published by Friends of the Earth Trust