Natural disasters may create 50m refugees: UN

12th October 2005, Comments 0 comments

12 October 2005, NEW YORK - Natural disasters and environmental degradation may displace 50 million people by 2010 creating a new category of refugees, United Nations experts said Tuesday.

12 October 2005

NEW YORK - Natural disasters and environmental degradation may displace 50 million people by 2010 creating a new category of refugees, United Nations experts said Tuesday.

"There are well-founded fears that the number of people fleeing untenable environmental conditions may grow exponentially as the world experiences the effects of climate change and other phenomena," said Janos Bogarti, director of the United Nations University's Institute for Environment and Human Security in Bonn, Germany.

"This new category of 'refugee' needs to find a place in international agreements," Bogardi said. "We need to better anticipate support requirements, similar to those of people fleeing other unviable situations."

So-called environmental refugees have yet to be included in international agreements that defend the rights of political and war refugees and grant them access to money, food, shelter and health care.

Hans van Ginkel, rector of the United Nations University, urged world leaders to prepare for future disasters and to define and incorporate the new breed of environmental refugees into the international framework.

Van Ginkel said political and war refugees are recognized by international treaties and that environmental refugees present a more complex problem. He added that such refugees need to be considered separately from economic migrants, who leave their native countries to seek a better life elsewhere.

The Bonn experts said environmental disasters include the rise of sea levels, the expansion of deserts and catastrophic weather-induced flooding, which this year alone has caused massive destruction and displaced millions of people worldwide.

Environmental migration is already an acute problem in sub-Saharan Africa and Asia. Expanding deserts have also displaced millions of people in the Middle East, China and North Africa, the Bonn experts said.

Governments usually provide temporary assistance to victims of natural disasters.

DPA

Subject: German news

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