Environmental migration and the increasing importance of understanding how people move after disasters such as hurricanes, landslides, storms, floods, droughts and coastal erosion, will be the subject of upcoming national workshops over the next few weeks in 5 independent OECS member states.
From 2-12 March 2021 the International Organisation for Migration (IOM), and the IOM Global Migration Data Analysis Centre (GMDAC) in collaboration with the Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS) Commission, will bring together key government stakeholders from the core sectors of Disaster Coordination and Emergency Response, Immigration, and Statistics, in Grenada, St Lucia, Antigua & Barbuda, and St Vincent & the Grenadines, in virtual workshops to discuss the status of data collection and management regarding environmental migration. Other sectors that have been invited and are encouraged to contribute include Tourism, Climate Change, Environment, Education, Labour, Foreign Affairs, Economic & Social Planning, Health, Local Government and any other relevant stakeholders. A first national workshop was successfully held in Dominica in late January 2021 and dates for the workshop with stakeholders in Saint Kitts & Nevis are being discussed.
Communications Assistant for IOM Dominica, Maxine Alleyne-Esprit explained, “Over the last 6 months, IOM Dominica and GMDAC, in collaboration with the OECS, have been assessing human mobility data collection and management processes in 6 independent OECS member states as part of a wider ‘Regional Dialogue to Address Human Mobility and Climate Change Adaptation in the Eastern Caribbean’ project, which is funded by the Federal Republic of Germany. The project’s activities are geared towards building a regional dialogue in the Eastern Caribbean, to enhance governments’ capacities to collect, analyse and utilise data on human mobility caused by disasters.”
The OECS Commission is in full support of this project. According to Dr Clarence Henry, Senior Technical Officer at the Regional Integration Unit of the OECS Commission, “Disasters related to natural hazards have been increasing in frequency and intensity due to climate change. Understanding, through data and evidence, the patterns of movement, the complex motivations, and any issues surrounding environmental migration, will assist governments to set appropriate frameworks to ensure safe, orderly and dignified movement of people in these scenarios.”
Various government institutions and other agencies have contributed to the research. The upcoming national workshops will provide the opportunity for the research team to discuss and validate the findings of the study at country level. It will also be an opportunity to identify areas for improving the collection and management of environmental migration data, nationally and regionally. In this way, the workshops will contribute to a more whole-of-government approach to migration governance and management in situations of crisis due to disasters and the adverse effects of climate change.
Environmental migration is the movement of persons or groups of persons who, predominantly for reasons of sudden or progressive changes in the environment that adversely affect their lives or living conditions, are forced to leave their places of habitual residence, or choose to do so, either temporarily or permanently, and who move within or outside their country of origin or habitual residence.
The Eastern Caribbean is highly vulnerable to a series of natural hazards, and the islands have been experiencing the effects of climate change. Anecdotal evidence suggests that environmental migration is often used as a short- or long-term coping strategy by many Caribbean citizens after disasters strike. IOM’s 2018 Migration Governance Needs Assessment study in 10 island states of the Commonwealth Caribbean identified limitations in availability of data and evidence which is required for countries to plan their interventions. Ultimately, this project will assist OECS states to respond effectively to the mobility dimensions of environmental crises, providing for the socio-economic well-being of those who are forced to move.
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