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Why climate change shouldn’t be used to reinforce anti-refugee messaging

With Cop26 in full swing, many of us are talking about ‘climate refugees’ and mass migration as a reason to take action on climate change.

Here’s why that may not be a very helpful angle…

1) Politicians, the media and even well-meaning green website have described ‘floods’ and ‘waves’ of climate refugees. Language like this paints migration as a threat and reinforces anti-immigration messaging.

2) People forced to flee shouldn’t have their plight used as a rhetorical warning. No one wants to be forced from their home, but it’s important to avoid any suggestion that refugees themselves are a negative force.

3) Migration happens for many reasons. People move because of a combination of social, political, economic, environmental factors: someone may leave their home because of climate change and a repressive regime. Avoid simplification and let people tell their own stories.

4) Most people affected by climate change seek safety within their own country. To be a refugee you have to cross an international border.

5) People move. Throughout human history people have migrated, and likewise, communities have welcomed and accommodated people on the move.

The world has never faced such monumental challenges, but we must emphasise that climate change should be tackled as a cause in and of itself.  

With thanks to IMIX.