Mass Expulsion is Only a Temporary Solution
The US has begun to forcibly expel hundreds of Haitian asylum seekers and other migrants, returning them to the dire economic, political, and climate crises from which they fled. The US plan to repatriate over 12,000 more individuals in the coming weeks is a temporary "solution" at best. At worst, it's an exercise in futility when time and resources could be better spent preparing for the massive global migrations projected to occur over the next few decades.
"A World Bank report published earlier this month reported astonishing projections for climate migration in East Asia and the Pacific, North Africa, and Eastern Europe and Central Asia."
Many of the asylum seekers who made camp under the Del Rio Bridge in Texas, originally fled Haiti in the wake of the 2010 earthquake that devastated the nation. They fled to South and Central Americas and have been making their slow, agonizing way to the US border since then. Now they are being returned to the site of a fresh disaster in Haiti as it recovers from the 7.2 magnitude earthquake that struck just last month amidst ongoing political and economic turmoil. These seismic events, and their societal aftershocks, have pushed people from their homeland and set them on a perilous journey for survival. This is no ordinary migration. It's climate migration.
"Sub-Saharan Africa is the most vulnerable and would have the most people migrating -- up to 86 million."
A World Bank report published earlier this month outlined astonishing projections for climate migration in East Asia and the Pacific, North Africa, and Eastern Europe and Central Asia. The report is the sequel to the 2018 Groundswell report covering the potential for population shifts in Sub-Saharan Africa, South Asia, and Latin America. These three regions, plus the three in this week's report, show that "as many as 216 million people could move within their own countries due to slow-onset climate change impacts by 2050." That's the worst-case scenario and does not factor in the effects of extreme weather events, the leading reason that people fled their homes last year.
World Bank: The Human Toll of Climate Change - Taking Action on Internal Climate Migration, September 13, 2021.
Even their most optimistic scenario of mitigated emissions and sustainable development predict 44 million people being pushed out of their homes in search of a more livable climate. Out of these six regions, Sub-Saharan Africa is the most vulnerable and would have the most people migrating -- up to 86 million. The North Africa region would have the highest proportion of migrants with approximately 9% of its population (19 million people) moving within national borders. Yet in a strange twist, by 2070 almost a fifth of the planet (19%) is projected to be an extremely hot zone like the Sahara region.
"...with climate migration, all types of people are at risk -- young and old, of any background, from any nation."
Underlying these future concerns, climate change will compound existing factors already pushing people outside of their areas of origin, such as discrimination, persecution, and job loss. This means people experiencing increased vulnerability due to inequality or conflict may experience climate change as a threat multiplier. Typically, certain kinds of people (e.g., young adults ages 20-39, those with higher educational attainment, those not in the labor force) are more likely to move than others. But with climate migration, all types of people are at risk -- young and old, of any background, from any nation. Risk may be somewhat even, but vulnerabilities are not.
WW0: Facebook Live conversation on national security, climate migration and the climate crisis (September 10, 2020).
Cantor Art Center: When Home Won't Let You Stay | Live Narration of Incoming by Richard Mosse, November 2, 2020.
Amanpour and Company (PBS): The Great Climate Migration Has Begun, May 24, 2021.
"It's time for forward thinking and new ideas about how to greet and mitigate the coming changes to both our climate and our population."
Highly developed nations, the US among them, contribute the most to the climate crisis through industrial activities, and with legacies of slavery, colonialism, and extractivism -- these global injustices amount to climate racism. Hence, a crucial part of the just response to climate migration is to welcome more migrants into their countries and provide them with pathways to citizenship. Minneapolis and other "sanctuary/safe cities" serve as good models of a humane approach to immigration by limiting their cooperation with federal immigration enforcement, protecting low-priority immigrants from deportation, allowing immigrants to legally drive (and thus attend work and school), and maintaining an infrastructure of nonprofit agencies or NGOs to assist with resettling.
"The Great Climate Migration" has already begun, as we see from what's happening under the Del Rio Bridge. Journalist Abraham Lustgarten observed that, "As their land fails them, hundreds of millions of people from Central America to Sudan to the Mekong Delta will be forced to choose between flight or death." Driving these migrants away will neither solve the problem, nor end the migration. It's time for forward thinking and new ideas about how to greet and mitigate the coming changes to both our climate and our population. Climate migration is, and will continue to be, the greatest wave of global migration ever seen as humanity quests for survival.