09:48 GMT24 February 2020
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    The recent ruling by the UN Human Rights Committee that people fleeing climate catastrophes and natural disasters have a valid claim for international protection may have far-reaching consequences throughout the entire world, especially in recipient countries such as Norway.

    The recent statement by the UN Human Rights Committee that directly links the climate threat to the refugee problem and the right to life, which validates climate change as a ground for refugee status, has sparked hot debates countries on the receiving end of the refugee problem.

    The Norwegian Directorate of Immigration (UDI) has said it's up to politicians to decide on whether climate change is grounds for asylum, triggering a discussion where opinions were polarised.

    “I believe this is just the start of a major security policy challenge, and that the concrete consequences of the UN Convention are something that needs to be discussed more closely, also here in Norway”, Conservative MP Lene Westgaard-Halle from the energy and environment committee told NRK.

    According to her, the Conservatives are working on a “climate cure” to reduce global warming and subsequent refugee problems by cutting greenhouse gas emissions.

    Their government partners, the Liberals, decided last year to give so-called “climate refugees” the same status as people fleeing war and conflict.

    Conversely, their former partners, the right-wing Progress Party, which recently left the government in protest over its decision to repatriate a Daesh* bride with two children, said that accepting people on climate grounds was “out of the question”.

    “Most European countries now see how problematic today's asylum system is. More and more people are calling for a departure from today's schemes. It is unthinkable that climate should provide a basis for seeking asylum,” Progress Party immigration spokesman Jon Helgheim said.

    According to Progress, “mass immigration” is never the solution when dealing with climate refugees regionally. Helgeheim minced no words in suggesting that it often is merely a pretext.

    “The fact that asylum activists are creative in finding new pretexts for large-scale migration is nothing new, but this is just a fluke”, Helgheim told NRK.

    Even the left-of-the-centre Labour Party is sceptical about climate refugees.

    “It is important that everyone recognises that man-made climate change leads to even more migration. The way we need to address this is to pursue an active climate policy nationally and internationally and to set up thorough humanitarian aid,” Labour immigration spokesman Masud Gharahkhani said, warning against “diluting” the very institute of asylum.

    According to him, the world is already struggling to care for the millions of refugees fleeing various conflicts and oppression.

    “We must not forget that under today's asylum institute, there are almost 30 million people on the run throughout the world. The Refugee Convention should be for those who are persecuted individually. A typical example is a human rights defender or a journalist,” he stressed.

    By contrast, the Socialist Left, a fellow left-of-the-centre party, was pleased with the UN decision. Its immigration spokeswoman Karin Andersen maintained that it was “absolutely necessary” for the the climate threat to be considered valid grounds for asylum. She stressed that a solution must be found “before the the climate refugees are knee-deep in water”.

    “The discussion on this problem is long overdue. That is why I am very pleased that the UN is now saying that this is a situation as impossible as being politically persecuted,” Andersen said.

    According to her, the real question is “what are the people who live in places that become uninhabitable expected to do?” She described climate change “a growing problem no matter what we do” and called on Norway to take the initiative to reduce emissions and reduce the number of climate refugees to a possible minimum.

    The United Nations estimated the number of refugees and displaced people at 70.8 million in 2019.

    During the 20th century, Norway took in refugees from several conflict-ridden countries, including Chile, Vietnam and the former Yugoslavia. In the 2000s, new asylum currents appeared from the Middle East and sub-Saharan Africa.

    * Daesh (ISIS/ISIL/"Islamic State") is a terrorist organisation banned in Russia and other countries

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    Tags:
    migrant crisis, United Nations, Scandinavia, Norway
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