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International Migration Review Forum

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Caritas Internationalis asks to enhance legal protection for climate migrants and create conditions for people to remain in their homelands

On the occasion of the International Migration Review Forum (IMFR), which started yesterday in New York, Caritas Internationalis asks for a special protection status to be granted to people and communities displaced due to climate change’s adverse effects. The Confederation also urges to create conditions for enabling people to stay where they live, especially by enhancing communities’ resilience to climate change – through prevention, training, and capacity building – and investing in long-term strategies founded on social protection and cohesion.

These two calls will be the focus of the UN side event The Cross Cutting Call to Protect People and Planet organised by Caritas Internationalis this evening at UN Headquarters, and co-sponsored by Act Alliance, Mercy International Association, and the NGO Committee on Migration.

“As the Holy Father underlined already in Laudato si’ encyclical, there is an incredibly rising number of people that are forced to migrate within States and across-borders due to climate-induced vulnerabilities, including those related of food insecurity, lack of livelihood options, and human rights crises,” says Aloysius John, secretary general of Caritas Internationalis. “With this event, we wish to draw the attention to the structural drivers of today’s migration, which are increasingly mixed and forced, and also reflect on the legal protection gaps which still exist,” he adds.

The Confederation of 162 Caritas national organisations particularly urges to take into consideration how climate change interacts with other migration drivers such as natural disasters and conflicts. Therefore, strategic coordination at the UN level is urgently needed to coordinate better the different areas of work to address the protection needs of climate and environmentally displaced more comprehensively and holistically.

Caritas Confederation has been actively engaging in addressing the root causes of forced migration and welcoming, assisting, integrating and advocating for the human rights protection of migrants and displaced people all throughout their migration journey and regardless of their migration status.

During the side event, Caritas Internationalis will present success stories in addressing the root causes and multiple drivers of migration, from Zimbabwe to El Salvador. But the Confederation is experiencing it worldwide. In Papua New Guinea, for example, where around 80% of the population is rural based and climate change induced variability of the weather largely affects people’s livelihoods and sustenance, Caritas Papua New Guinea has engaged in disaster response and relief efforts to affected communities and has contributed to strengthening community resilience to shift from reactive to proactive actions.

Caritas’ experience of building community resilience to climate change is based on prevention and preparedness, strengthening disaster risk reduction through early warning systems and anticipatory actions, and capacity building by enhancing and valuing local leadership. “Building community resilience and alternative development patterns has become a central endeavour of our Caritas organisations,” adds Aloysius John. It is likewise crucial to continue strengthening the link between humanitarian aid, development, and peace by investing in long-term strategies founded on social protection and cohesion.

On the occasion of the International Migration Review Forum, Caritas Internationalis reiterates its call to allocate substantiate funds to invest in projects that enable people to stay where they live and promulgate legal protection for people and communities compelled to leave their homes in the context of climate change and environmental degradation through clear policies and concrete mechanisms to implement and monitor them. In fact, there is not yet a comprehensive legal framework addressing the challenges of these people, and the definition and type of protection granted to them are still under discussion. To protect the human rights of environmental migrants, Caritas Internationalis calls also decision makers and States to take measures to promote access to essential services for these populations and take into account their vulnerable situation, in particular for women, minors, and indigenous peoples.