Climate refugee crisis has landed on Europe’s shores – and we are far from ready

(EurActiv, 13 Feb 2023) As adverse weather conditions intensify, the amount of climate change refugees entering Europe is increasing. However, the EU is not ready, and policymakers should address the issue before a destabilisation of the European social order takes place, writes Ibrahim Özdemir.

Ibrahim Özdemir is an ecologist and consultant to the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP) since 2015. He is professor of philosophy and ecology at Üsküdar University and founding president at Hasan Kalyoncu University, and previously was Director-General at the department of foreign affairs in the Turkish Ministry of Education. 

Last year, the highest number of migrants entered the EU since the 2015 refugee crisis. Yet, policymakers are failing to recognise what this signals: the start of an unprecedented climate refugee crisis – which could quickly destabilise Europe’s social order. 

And we are far from being prepared. In the same week, my home country Turkey suffered the most severe earthquake in almost a century – displacing nearly 300,000 people in neighbouring Syria – the EU is hosting a high-level migration summit.

While Monday’s events have sent shock waves across Europe, they also present the EU with a pivotal moment to evaluate the block’s outdated refugee policy. 

Globally, migrant flows have doubled in the past decade, and around 1.2 billion people are at risk of being displaced by climate disasters before 2050. These climate refugees are predominantly from sub-Saharan Africa and the MENA region, countries already crippled with climate emergencies and extreme droughts

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EurActiv, 13 Feb 2023: Climate refugee crisis has landed on Europe’s shores – and we are far from ready