U.S. Groups Release Climate Justice and Immigrant Rights Statement

Posted by admin on Dec 10th, 2009

(December 10, 2009 Washington, DC)  Organizations around the country released a national statement in conjunction with the UN Climate Summit in Copenhagen this week, calling for increased attention and awareness to forced displacement caused by climate change, for the protection of the rights of these displaced communities, for legal and financial assistance directly to climate refugees, and for an immediate reduction of carbon emissions.  It asserts that while as many as 50 million people have already been displaced by climate change, this number could rise to as much as 150 million by 2050.  The statement also condemns government policies and corporate practices that directly lead to climate change and that adversely impact the displacement of communities around the world.

The statement, endorsed by dozens of organizations around the U.S. and internationally, was released by the Climate Justice and Migration Working Group, a working group of national and international faith-based, human rights and immigrant rights groups, and part of the U.S. Mobilization for Climate Justice (MCJ).

Michelle Knight of the Columban Center for Advocacy and Outreach who co-coordinates the Working Group, describes; “Catastrophic outcomes from climate change, such as hurricanes and flash-floods, are not the only causes of community displacement.  Slow-onset outcomes, such as desertification and sea level rise, have already had an adverse impact on the food, health and economies of residents in many regions around the world.”

In diverse places such as Bolivia, sub-Saharan Africa, Sri Lanka and elsewhere, local farmers face increasing challenges as climate change severely reduces agricultural land.  As a result, diminished harvests directly lead to higher rates of hunger and other widespread health effects.  Climate change is disproportionately caused by wealthy nations while the repercussions take their highest toll on the poorest nations.

“Among all the noise around climate change right now, especially with the upcoming UN Climate Summit, the voices of communities who have been displaced, especially indigenous communities who are particularly affected, have gone unheard and unheeded,” added Colin Rajah of the National Network for Immigrant and Refugee Rights, the other co-coordinator of the Working Group.  “Climate refugees who are forced to leave their homelands, face increasing immigration restrictions and criminalization, instead of having their devastating condition addressed and human rights protected.”

The Climate Justice and Migration Working Group asserts that unless patterns and causes of climate change are immediately addressed through political action, the consequences will continue to devastate communities around the world at catastrophic levels, especially those most vulnerable.

The full text of the statement, with an accompanying list of endorsers can be found at www.nnirr.org/CJmigrationstatement.

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