Protecting 'Climate Induced Migrants' of Bangladesh | The Daily Star
12:00 AM, November 27, 2018 / LAST MODIFIED: 12:06 AM, November 27, 2018

Protecting 'Climate Induced Migrants' of Bangladesh

The annual report 2017 of Internal Displacement Monitoring Center-Bangladesh shows that, Bangladesh is impregnated with 946000 internally displaced people. This number is mounting as 50000 people are becoming homeless due to natural disasters every year. Apart from that, Bangladesh is among the 10 vulnerable nations affected by climate change according to the German Watch Global Climate Index Report. International Panel Climate Change predicts that within 2050 Bangladesh will lose 17.5% of its lands, which includes 30% of food production lands. Whereas according to the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), the amount of climate-induced displaced persons in Bangladesh may increase up to 15 million by 2050. This is undoubtedly very minatory for the country from the perspective of economy, employment, food, agricultural resources, national harmony and livestock.

However, at present these 1 million citizens of Bangladesh are unprotected from the perspective of government, as there is no recognised term to define those displaced people. As well as no legislation in Bangladesh recognises or safeguards them. Bangladesh is not the sole stakeholder in this hollowness of protection. International law itself is yet unable to define those people. International Organization for Migration has proposed to fix the term as 'Environmental Refugees', but there are arguments-counterarguments, whether they shall be named climate induced migrants or climate refugees. Refugee as a term requires persecution to be justified according to the definition enshrined in Article 1 of Refugee Convention, 1951. But climate induced migrants don't meet the requirement of being called as 'refugee' as they migrate often within the state without persecution.

It is unjustifiable that in absence of international law's recognition and protection, Bangladesh shall keep these enormous number of people unregulated and unprotected violating 'Right to life' ensured under Article 32 of the Constitution. Also, Disaster Management Act, 2012 could have been the excelsior, but the Act is less concerned about protecting the affected people and more about managing a disaster.

Still a light of hope can be inculcated after scrutinising the efforts of Bangladeshi government. After adopting National Adaptation Programme of Action (NAPA) by United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCC) Bangladesh has comprised them in the domestic policies to regulate the 'Climate Induced Migrants'. Ministry of Environment and Forests has started Bangladesh Climate Change Strategy and Action Plan (BCCSAP) under NAPA with 44 programs on a Short-term and Long-term basis to safeguard 'Climate Induced Migrants'.

Disaster Management Act (DMA), 2012 may be the forerunner to safeguard the climate induced migrants by including the definition, more focusing on migrated people and efficiently adopting 'National Adaptation Programme of Action' in the Act. A council named Climate Migration Council comprising an emergency response cell may be formed under the Act to invigilate the movement and wants of these citizens. Ministry of Disaster Management and Reliefs may initiate policies in cooperation National Disaster Management Committees following section 19 of DMA to equip food, shelter, education, primary health care and hygiene water etc. for the displaced people immediately after displacement. Government may utilise the Employment Generation Programme for the Poorest (EGPP), which focuses on giving short term employment on community sub-projects to enable households to strongly cope with vulnerability to ensure employment for the migrants.

Alongside 'Temporary Protection Directive' may be adopted in Bangladesh Climate Change Strategy and Action Plan (BCCSAP) for immediate protection by Directorates of Disaster Management under section 9 of DMA. Bangladesh government may also replace the people living in disaster-prone areas to better and safer living places prior to any natural disaster. Nonetheless, Bangladesh being one of the most vulnerable countries due to climate change may become vocal in International agencies for protecting 'Climate Induced Migrants' all over the world.

The writer is a Student of LLM, Department of Law, University of Chittagong.

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