08:32 GMT +328 May 2018
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    In this photo taken Tuesday, Feb. 2, 2016 asylum seeker Lima Yosufi with her son Roman look out on the view on the island of Seiland, northern Norway, near her temporary accommodation at the Altnes camp.

    Migrant Crisis Revisited: Cool North to Become Magnet for 'Climate Refugees'

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    In the years to come, rampaging climate change transforming many places on Earth beyond recognition may unleash yet another wave of asylum seekers fleeing from areas rendered uninhabitable by floods, droughts or heat.

    In addition to wars and oppression, climate change alone can effectively force people to flee from their homes swept away by natural calamities. "Climate migration" may therefore become a major challenge for the Western world, triggering an exodus on a completely different scale than the refugee crisis experienced in Europe in recent years.

    If not combated effectively, it can force tens of millions of people to flee. Over 26 million people relocated for climate reasons in 2008-2015 alone, according to UNHCR. While the majority of them moved inside their home country, they may eventually cross borders and try their luck elsewhere, preferably in cooler and more stable areas, such as Scandinavia.

    "It is likely that Finland will sooner or later encounter climate refugees," Annu Lehtinen, chief executive officer of the Finnish Refugee Aid, told the Finnish daily Hufvudstadsbladet.

    According to Lehtinen, it is at present difficult to forecast the moment and the extent to which it will happen.

    "The international community's actions to slow down climate change affects whether we'll have to count the climate refugees by the million in the coming decades," Lehtinen ventured.

    At present, there is no special preparedness for climate refugees in Finland. The country's Migration Board has not set forth any separate directives on how asylum applications for climate refugees are to be treated. So far, no one has applied for asylum in Finland for reasons of climate change either, unlike Denmark.

    However, according to Juha Similä of the Finnish Migration Board, climate change has already entered the authority's agenda.

    "As for Somalia, for instance, we have recently updated our guidelines, in order to put the drought that hit the country into consideration," Juha Similä told Hufvudstadsbladet.

    Finland is known to follow international refugee agreements which stipulate that people facing persecution should be offered protection. Unlike terrorists or brutal regimes, climate change does not match the definition of oppressor.

    According to Lehtinen, instead of revising the agreements, the international community should focus on fighting climate change and looking for alternative solutions, such as introducing supplementary legislation.

    For Finland itself, climate change may become a mixed blessing. According to a recent report from the Finnish National Resources Institute (LUKE), a warmer climate may yield bigger harvests. On the other hand, the risks also increase, as potential storm damage escalates as is exposure to various plant diseases. In the report, Finnish farmers have been advised to have a closer look at crops previously considered exotic in order to adapt to climate change.


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    migrant crisis, global warming, climate change, Scandinavia, Finland
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