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Climate change will cause more displacement in America, warns UN

The latest report from the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) shows that 117 million people were in forced displacement at the end of 2023.

Of these, more than 43 million are refugees. The situation is serious and has worsened, according to the UNHCR, due to the escalation in global conflicts — mainly in Sudan, the Gaza Strip and the Democratic Republic of Congo.

As part of an initiative to shed light on the topic, UNHCR is holding events around the world for World Refugee Day, celebrated this Thursday (20).

“The main driver of forced displacement continues to be war. As the frequency, duration and intensity of conflicts around the world increases, so does the number of people forced to flee every year,” says William Spindler, UNHCR spokesperson for the Americas, in an exclusive interview with CNN.

One trend, however, is increasingly present in the entity’s reports: the growth in forced displacement caused by the climate emergency.

Extreme events challenge the infrastructure of countries like Brazil and force hundreds of thousands of people to leave their homes after flooding, storms and prolonged droughts.

This was the case with the floods in Rio Grande do Sul, which began at the beginning of May and continue to penalize the state’s population.

“The recent floods in Brazil led to the largest displacement in the country since records began in 2008”, highlights Spindler.

The result of this was the escalation of the humanitarian crisis, requiring the mobilization of the State and the community to support the displaced. The floods also hit parts of Uruguay and Argentina, where thousands were left homeless.

“Given that the adverse effects of climate change will increasingly trigger the displacement of refugees and migrants in the Americas, both within and across borders, prevention and mitigation measures are essential so that countries in the region can be prepared to guarantee forcibly displaced people an effective protection against the impact of climate change,” says Spindler.

Venezuelan drama

Despite the growing trend of displacement on the continent caused by climate change, the largest volume of forced migrants in the region continues to be the exodus of Venezuelan citizens. At the end of 2023, there were 7.7 million refugees, migrants and asylum seekers living outside the borders controlled by the Miraflores Palace, according to UNHCR.

Countries neighboring Venezuela are the main destination for this group. Colombia welcomed 2.86 million Venezuelans. Peru, another 1.45 million and Brazil, 568 thousand.

Still, for these people, displacement does not mean an immediate improvement in living conditions. The UNHCR estimates that 4 million Venezuelans, who live outside their country, have difficulty accessing basic needs, such as food and shelter.

“The exodus of people from Venezuela has increased steadily over the last decade. Venezuelans have left their country for a variety of reasons, including insecurity and violence, persecution and threats, lack of access to food, medicine and essential services, as well as loss of income and lack of effective national protection systems as a result of current political and political circumstances. socioeconomic, worsened by the pandemic”, assesses Sindler.

US border crisis

Within the continent, the migration crisis with the greatest media coverage is that on the border between the United States and Mexico, where more than 300,000 migrants ask for asylum from the American authorities every month.

According to UNHCR, the movement is a reflection of growing insecurity in Central and South American countries, both insecurity caused by armed conflicts and motivated by political violence or climate change.

Most of these people arrive at the border seeking asylum, a right guaranteed by the 1951 Geneva Convention.

“The reality that people will flee and make dangerous journeys to find safety if they are driven from their homes by conflict, violence and persecution – as well as situations increasingly affected by the effects of climate change. UNHCR continues to call on all countries in the region to work together to address the root causes and provide comprehensive and collaborative responses for people in need of international protection”, concludes the spokesperson for the UN High Commissioner for Refugees.

Source: CNN Brasil

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