Senator Clarke: Climate change a major factor driving the smuggling of displaced people

As the earth continues to warm steadily, propelling the increase of more intense and frequent climate phenomenon, Minister of Environment, Dr. Joyelle Clarke said the environmental changes that result are a significant factor driving the migration of people. 

During her contribution to the Anti-smuggling of Migrants Bill last Friday, Clarke made the sobering point that the displacement of people caused by climate change often triggers migration which does not always occur legally.

She also pointed out the fact that it is often the world’s most vulnerable nations which are left to bear the brunt of the life altering impacts of climate change.

“The global impacts of the climate crisis are not evenly experienced. Some countries, in particular, low to middle income countries, experience the consequences of the climate crisis more acutely than high income countries where buffers and safety nets are built into their economies. Vulnerable people will move,” said Senator Clarke.

While factors including political unrest and food shortages often precipitate the mass exodus of people seeking better circumstances, Dr. Clarke said in recent times, climate change is a growing reason behind people choosing to leave their homelands.

“Current research has linked countries experiencing unrest and national security issues – especially some African nations – with the climate crisis, and this is either water scarcity that is experienced as food scarcity and forces people to move or food insecurity which is then experienced as national security,” said Clarke. 

Noting that people will fight over resources in times of shortage, she pointed to Haiti as an example here in the region where the unrest in large part is driven by political and social unrest and food scarcity and insecurity aggravated by climate change.

“The climate crisis is directly linked to national security and the protection of our borders,” said Clarke.

It has been estimated by researchers that by 2050 more than 216 million people could migrate within their own countries as a result of climate change by 2050. This number increases drastically for people who will seek refuge outside their homelands. The Institute for Economics and Peace (IEP) reported in 2020 that the number of environmentally-displaced people could total more than 1.2 billion by 2030.

With this information in mind, Dr. Clarke said St. Kitts and Nevis was acting responsibly to enact legislation that will not only protect its borders but also displaced victims of the climate crisis who may be further victimised by human traffickers and smugglers.

“What we’re doing here today is protecting the rights of migrants who move. It’s their right, but protecting them against the illegal smuggling, protecting our country and our resources, protecting them against being abused financially, families being separated and lives lost due to the illegal smuggling that happens under very perilous environmental conditions exacerbated by a changing climate,” said Senator Clarke. 

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