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Assessing climate migration in BD requires research: IOM DG

Migration 2024-05-08, 11:38am

migrants-in-a-boat-b7db12756c40f83ca1abed05734c595c1715146709.jpg

Migrants in a boat.



Dhaka, May 8 - Director General of the International Organization for Migration (IOM) Amy Pope has laid emphasis on broader use of data and data analytics to understand which communities will be impacted the most by climate change so that they can identify those communities.

“So understanding what's happening in Bangladesh will require much more analysis and research,” she said in a group interview with five journalists representing local and international media outlets including UNB while responding to a question on climate migration.

The IOM DG said that is exactly the kind of investment that they are asking governments to make because governments will spend billions of dollars in their border enforcement but they do not spend the same kind of funds in understanding the drivers of migration and then helping to enable communities to adapt or stabilize movements of people.

Pope, who became Director General of the IOM on 1 October 2023, said their goal is also to teach people either new skills, or new ways of working or in some cases using migration as an adaptation strategy. “So that means not waiting until millions of people are displaced because they have no other option.”

Responding to a question from UNB, she said it is not just in Bangladesh, last year, the number of new displacements more were caused by climate impact and conflict around the world. “And we know that hundreds of millions of people now live in communities that are extremely vulnerable to climate impact.”

In 2022 alone, disasters triggered over 1.5 million displacements in Bangladesh, according to World Migration Report 2024.

The subregion has experienced devastating disasters in recent years, some of which have been linked to climate change. Southern Asia is extremely vulnerable to climate shocks and has experienced extreme weather events such as heatwaves and floods in recent years.

Long monsoon seasons, hotter weather and increased droughts are all expected to become the “new normal” in the subregion as temperatures continue to rise.

Responding to another question, she said when there are large movements of displaced people globally, it often is to neighboring countries that just do not have the capacity themselves to respond to those pressures.

“So our key message to donors and this is true, particularly with Bangladesh, is that we need to continue to invest in a response of the neighboring country, a neighboring country which is really shouldering a much greater burden as a result of the conflict,” Pope, the first woman to hold the post in IOM’s 73-year history, told UNB.

And as a gesture of solidarity, she said, governments make a wise investment in the capacity of that host government to be able to continue to host those populations.

“So for example, yesterday, when I went to the [Rohingya] camps, we invited a number of donors to go with us. We invited the World Bank to go with us who's made some investments in the camps. And we invited some private sector partners, recognizing that we need a wide range of partners to help support,” she said.

The IOM DG said they know that the government is challenged by the current population density in Bangladesh of Bangladeshi nationals and the availability of job opportunities or economic for charities for them.

“So that's kind of a starting point for the government. But we do know as a best practice, for any displaced community, there are two things. Our evidence shows that when they have stable shelters, they're more likely to be able to move forward. And it helps to prevent a number of related consequences. So shelters and shelter stability is key,” Pope said.

The second is the ability to integrate into the job market, she said, adding that, “So where we've seen better outcomes, it's because people can have access to education, and they can have access to jobs. If not, then they're wholly dependent on humanitarian aid.”

And the worry there is that humanitarian aid is decreasing, including to the Rohingya population, frankly, as a result of economies that have been impacted by COVID, and inflation, and other challenges, but also because a number of complex around the world have grown quite considerably over the last several years, so the pressures on the humanitarian system are higher, the DG said.

She said they are encouraging all governments, not just Bangladesh, but any government that is hosting a large number of displaced people to enable them to access the job market so that they are able to build out solutions for themselves and not be so reliant on humanitarian assistance.

“I had the opportunity to discuss the Rohingya crisis in quite a lot of detail with her (PM Sheikh Hasina) and about how we can build out better outcomes, especially for women and girls, who we know are particularly vulnerable right now in the camps,” she said.

The IOM DG said the smugglers are very sophisticated when using social media and they see this around the world.

“There are simply not enough regular pathways for people to access, not enough investment in enabling communities to access those regular pathways, or information about what someone needs to do or what skills they might need,” she said.

“So if we want to have any hope of countering the digitalization of the smuggling economy, we need to do better at providing access both to regular migration opportunities, but to communities who might otherwise migrate irregularly and help them figure out how to migrate regularly,” she added.

She said the mapping around what drives people to migrate is uneven and this is where they are encouraging governments to invest.

“The ideal solution is for every person who's coming across and we need to understand what drove them to migrate, where they're coming from, and when they came. So in some cases, we have a pretty comprehensive displacement tracking matrix,” said the DG, adding that “But we are seeing increasingly people are being driven by climate change.”

The current United Nations estimate is that there are about 281 million international migrants in the world, which equates to 3.6 per cent of the global population. But increasing numbers of people are being displaced, within and out of their country of origin, because of conflict, violence, political or economic instability as well as climate change and other disasters.

In 2022, there were 117 million displaced people in the world, and 71.2 million internally displaced people. The number of asylum-seekers has risen from 4.1 million in 2020 to 5.4 million in 2022, an increase of more than 30 per cent. - UNB