London Workshop Heidi Mustafa

Heidi Mustafa

La Retraite

Heidi Mustafa - Winning Article London Workshop

What will be the big challenges regarding climate-change refugees in Europe in the next 50 years?

The media often use inflammatory phrases which alarm the public. ‘Global warming’ or ‘extreme flooding’ are both phrases commonly used in the media, but there comes a time where people stop paying attention to them.

Over the past 100 years, the Earth’s temperature has risen by 0.4°C to 0.8°C, due to increasing volumes of carbon dioxide being produced from the burning of fossil fuels, and other factors. Another thing that is not acknowledged much is the social impacts of climate change, how it affects our global population rather than our environment.

‘Climate-change refugees’ are people who are forced to leave their country due to (sudden) changes to their local environment. Since 2009, an average of 22.5 million have been displaced by extreme weather and/or climate changes to their environment, with one person being affected every second (IDMC, 2015). Currently, a multitude of countries are involved in warfare, many of these located in the warmer parts of the Earth, such as the Middle-East. As a result of global warming, the planet’s average temperature has risen abruptly, and it will only increase in the years to come.

The unfortunate people who have to depart from their homes (temporarily or permanently) are often labelled as ‘refugees’, but is that really a name we want to be giving them? The word makes you picture a long row of miserable people, in a field, with tents pitched up as accommodation. Although this is fair to imagine (because the media plays an important role in our knowledge), the name ‘refugee’ should not be used in consideration with these people; we cannot put the blame on them for having left their country, because only one thing has caused it, and that is nature.

Climate-change refugees endure (and will continue doing so in the future) problems facing their migration. A main problem is adaption: it is most likely that wherever a person has come from, there is a significant change in culture. For example, if one were to have moved from a Middle-Eastern country to a Western country, traditional customs will have changed, from greeting someone to their known cuisine. This problem would affect younger children the most, due to them not comprehending the change in their livelihood and not being able to follow a particular routine.

Another huge issue with migration is acceptance, whether the people in the area you have moved to will take you as one of their own. According to the U.S Department of State, the US have welcomed over 3 million refugees from all over the world, since 1975. However, government acceptance is one thing, and social acceptance is another. A person feels welcomed from other’s attitudes around them. There have been many examples of hate crimes towards refugees, especially in Germany, who have taken in most of the asylum-seekers because of the recent refugee crisis. Such crimes include full-on assault, and even cold-blooded murder. All this because of race and not taking well enough to change.

Lastly, where will the environmental refugees find refuge? Large camps for refugees at the moment are situated in France, Calais in particular, but space will begin to be a problem with climate change becoming more dangerous than ever. Countries, such as the ones in the UK, will not feel obliged to take in as many refugees as before, as now it has voted to leave the European Union; the EU had previously worked alongside the UK to help tackle the problem of mass refugees arriving from the current war-torn countries, but now will probably not have much participation in the matter.

Overall, I believe that all the problems stated are life-changing and will impact the climate-change refugees significantly, however the main one that will affect them dearly will be acceptance. Ciwan B, an ethnic Kurd refugee living in Germany, has said: ‘I escaped a war in Syria and I don’t need to face tensions here in Germany. I just would like to work and to have a good life, as I had before the war’. Thus, being a part of a community and fitting in would make a refugee’s life much more pleasant, while solving one of many problems at the same time.