Bringing Light to Climate Migration

Climate change is a human rights issue affecting more people every day.

Drought, famine, floods, sea level rise, wildfires, biodiversity loss, and many other environmental changes will displace an estimated 200 million people by 2050. Although the world’s developed countries have largely caused the climate crisis, its consequences—including displacement—will disproportionately impact historically exploited countries and communities.

Understanding how climate change drives displacement and creating legal protections for “climate migrants” is critical to addressing migration in a warming world. Voice of Witness community partner East Bay Sanctuary Covenant (EBSC) has been exploring this intersection and advocating for policy change that addresses climate migration.

EBSC leads Amplifying Sanctuary Voices, a community-based oral history project centering the stories of people who have migrated to the US seeking sanctuary. This storytelling initiative consists of a coalition of community organizations, including Voice of Witness.

Amplifying Sanctuary Voices’ new educational exhibit positions climate change as a major factor in the forced migration of peoples throughout the world. The exhibit focuses on various nuances of climate-induced displacement and migration of the Rohingya people, as well as people in the Northern Triangle of Central America, Haiti, Puerto Rico, and Syria.

The project highlights the ways in which climate change exacerbates environmental disasters, poverty, food insecurity, and intergroup violence. Climate change refugees are currently not considered “refugees” by the legal definition provided by the 1951 Refugee Convention, which states that people must have faced persecution in their home countries to be considered for asylum. Through interviews with migrants and experts, classroom presentations, and educator guides, the exhibit shares stories of those displaced by climate change, expanding our understanding of climate migration and fostering empathy and action.

Learn more about climate migration and learn how you can take action on the EBSC website.  

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