Millions of people being are being driven from their homes by the impact of climate change, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees said on Tuesday, warning the world must get ready to accommodate them.
Filippo Grandi flew to Davos, Switzerland, for this week’s World Economic Forum (WEF) to deliver his warning of approaching demographic catastrophe.
The U.N. Human Rights Committee made the landmark ruling on Monday in relation to Ioane Teitiota, from the Pacific nation of Kiribati, who brought a case against New Zealand after authorities denied his claim of asylum.
The U.N. also rejected his claim, saying he wasn’t in immediate danger, but the wording of its ruling allows others to claim asylum based on climate change, the BBC reports.
Sending asylum seekers home when their lives are threatened by the climate crisis “may expose individuals to a violation of their rights” – specifically, it said, their right to life.
The theme of climate refugees has already been raised in the U.S. during the Democrat debates, with Bernie Sanders echoing the U.N.’s concerns:
“Given that the risk of an entire country becoming submerged under water is such an extreme risk, the conditions of life in such a country may become incompatible with the right to life with dignity before the risk is realised,” the U.N. decision added.
Grandi expanded on that ruling by forecasting a mass movement of people across the planet.
“The ruling says if you have an immediate threat to your life due to climate change, due to the climate emergency, and if you cross the border and go to another country, you should not be sent back, because you would be at risk of your life, just like in a war or in a situation of persecution,” Grandi said.
“We must be prepared for a large surge of people moving against their will,” he said. “I wouldn’t venture to talk about specific numbers, it’s too speculative, but certainly we’re talking about millions here.”
As Breitbart News reported, another aspect of the U.N. decision means governments that return refugees to countries it deems to be severely affected by climate change could be in breach of their human rights obligations.