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COVID-19 adds to adversity for climate refugees

COVID-19 adds to adversity for climate refugees


Already facing a legally undefined status, climate refugees must now contend with a shortage of decent medical care, as well as closed borders and international travel restrictions, making their lives excessively difficult during the global pandemic.

Climate refugees, environmental migrants and environmentally displaced people, which refer to forced migration due to climate and environmental change, are not legal persons as part of international law as they are not recognized in the 1951 Refugee Convention.

However, the debate on the issue has become more visible among academics, human rights advocates and environmental organizations as the negative effects of climate change are becoming more frequent and intense amid concerns that they will force more and more people to leave their homes in the near future.

On the occasion of World Refugee Day, Sumudu Atapattu, executive director of the Madison Human Rights Program at the University of Wisconsin (UW), and Abdullah Resul Demir, head of the Istanbul-based International Refugee Rights Association, spoke to Anadolu Agency about the climate migration issue on their social, legal and economic aspects.

Atapattu said there were increasing safety concerns among refugees where access to water and other basic hygienic measures were difficult due to the coronavirus outbreak: "It is [also] much harder because the borders are closed and international travel is not possible."

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