The vicious consequences of climate change are becoming more evident every day. No region or country in the world is exempt. According to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), the environmental, economic and social consequences will only continue to worsen, and it is inevitable that conflicts and climate migration will start to occur more frequently.
Since the Industrial Revolution, the global average temperatures have increased by about 1.1 degrees Celsius (approximately 2 degrees Fahrenheit). Its fallout has been observed in every aspect of life. From food security to energy shortages, there are several concerns encircling the globe. Poverty is accordingly expected to increase worldwide due to the very climate crisis.
In this context, climate security is widely discussed today. The discussion not only includes risks and threats that endanger the lives of people, the continuity of ecosystems and the welfare of countries but also policies and actions for greenhouse gas reduction and adaptation to climate change.
Many societies, especially the inhabitants of small island states, are experiencing the cruel effects of climate change and climate safety problems. The United Nations Environment Program (UNEP) warns that due to the rise of the sea level as a result of climate change, the existence of island states such as Kiribati, the Maldives or the Marshall Islands is in danger. These problems inevitably bolster climate migration, which has increased rapidly in recent years.
Nowadays, environmental problems are increasingly correlated with displacement and migration. According to the Groundswell Report by the World Bank, by 2050, 216 million people across six world regions will be forced to move within their countries. This demonstrates that the cities and socially sensitive groups will be affected.
In June 2021, Bangladesh announced that the number of Bangladeshi “climate migrants” displaced due to climate change has exceeded 10 million. The country, which is currently home to 1.1 million Rohingya Muslims, is adversely affected by climate change. Bangladesh also declared that the predicted increase in the sea level by 2050 will result in the submerging of 17% of Bangladeshi shores, meaning more than 20 million people will have to migrate.
Citizens of African and Asian countries, in particular, are already migrating due to climate-related problems. However, in addition, people in parts of North America and Europe may also have to emigrate. Therefore, as the impact of climate change intensifies, it is highly possible migration originating from these countries will increase.
Migration, climate relationships and mitigation measures are also included in various international climate change agreements. The relationship between climate change and migration was included for the first time in studies within the scope of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) in the context of the 2010 Cancun Adaptation Framework, and the importance of strengthening cooperation in these areas was emphasized. The Warsaw International Mechanism for Loss and Damage associated with Climate Change Impacts incorporated the identified approaches to mitigate the damage due to climate change, and human mobility was included in the five main strategic studies identified.
Another important U.N. document that addresses the link between climate change and migration is the U.N. 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development Goals adopted in 2015. The U.N.'s Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction 2015-2030 also includes the relationship between climate change and migration. The Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration is another document that takes a comprehensive and holistic approach to international migration and includes commitments on natural disasters, adverse effects of climate change and environmental degradation.
While countries are dealing with the influx of migrants and refugees, restrictive policies have been implemented to control the flow of undocumented migrants and especially the European Union's efforts to prevent undocumented migration have increased. With the 2015 refugee crisis, the issue of forced migration and asylum-seekers became the center of the agenda of all countries, including the EU. This paved the way for international studies and agreements linking climate change and migration.
The negative effects of climate change and the security and migration problems it causes are an important agenda item for Turkey as well as for other countries. As emphasized in the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) reports, Turkey, as a country in the Mediterranean macro-climate region, is in a very vulnerable position amid the negative effects of climate change. It is expected that temperatures will increase and precipitation will decrease in the coming period. It is foreseen that this will negatively affect development, cause regional inequalities and adversely affect water and food security. Turkey is particularly affected by human mobility due to its geographical location, social structure, historical proximity and economic conditions. It is crucial that we investigate this effect via scientific studies.
Turkey is facing a possible migration and refugee crisis. There are several reasons, including climate-related issues, that increase migration flows to the country. From countries far away, like Afghanistan, to those just over its border, such as Syria, migrants and refugees continue to move to Turkey. However, when we evaluate the migration movements in the context of neighboring countries, we cannot expect people to immediately flee the 2021 drought in Iraq; likewise, the same logic applies for the situation in Iran. If the drought is continuous, people will first migrate internally and then externally.
In the context of the current migration movements, many are migrating to Turkey, especially from South Asia. As of August 2021, Afghanistan was the source of the highest number of irregular migrants in Turkey, while Pakistan ranks third. Drought affected 80% of Afghanistan in 2021. However, drought is not the only reason for Afghan migration. The increase in the conflict caused by the Taliban takeover also played a large role.
Therefore, as the numerous migration studies carried out on examples like Syria and Afghanistan have revealed, in addition to the worsening of living conditions due to drought and other climate-related disasters, it has been observed that there is an increase in the formation of radical groups and internal conflicts when the central and social state is not strong.
In this respect, although drought is not the only reason for migration in these regions, it can be said that drought is one of the most important initial factors that worsen the living conditions of local people who work in agriculture, triggering migration. In addition, political instability in the Middle East and the conflicts between different international powers in the region also play important roles.
Turkey has become the region's immigration center of attraction because it is the most reliable, democratic, economically developed and politically stable country in the region. The increase in migration from South Asia, the Balkans, the Black Sea and the Middle East due to both climate change and other reasons in the future is seen as a threat for Turkey and EU countries. In today's conditions, where the issue of climate migration is increasing in importance on the international agenda, it is critical to consider migration management alongside the effects of climate change.
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