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By Manipadma Jena
But even before one of those catastrophes strikes, the 660 million to 820 million people who depend on fishing will have no choice but to leave their home, their occupation and move; perhaps more because families that depend on subsistence fishing already find the activity very difficult due to overfishing.
The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) estimates that illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing amounts to between 11 million and 26 million tons of fish per year, representing between 10 billion and 23 billion dollars and depletes fish stocks, raises prices and destroys the livelihoods of many fishermen.
The International Organization for Migration (IOM) forecasts that there will be about 200 million environmental migrants by 2050, moving within their countries or crossing borders, permanently or temporarily.
IOM Director General William Lacy Swing spoke with IPS in the framework of the second United Nations Environment Assembly, held from May 23 to 27 in Nairobi, where representatives of 174 countries discussed environmental implementation. of the work that will make it possible to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG).
IPS: What other elements are responsible for coastal emigration, besides environmental crises and the depletion of fish stocks?
WILLIAM LACY SWING: Political crises and natural disasters are the other reasons for emigration today. We have never had humanitarian emergencies so complex and protracted at the same time, from West Africa to West Asia (the Middle East), with few places in between where something is not happening.
We have 40 million forcibly displaced people and 20 million refugees, the largest number of people uprooted since the Second World War (1939-1945).
If we add the events related to climate change like Typhoon Haiyan, which hit the Philippines in November 2013, and the earthquake in Haiti in 2010, there would be an additional group.
We don't know how many of these natural disasters are linked to climate, but we are paying more and more attention to climate change. After the Paris negotiations it is more evident that we need to pay attention to adaptation strategies, especially in places like Bangladesh and the islands of the Pacific (ocean), so that people can avoid them and prepare for them.
Kiribati President Anote Tong said they feared losing around 33 atolls. They already buy land from Fiji so that its population can emigrate. Those are the kinds of adaptation measures we need to take.
IPS: How do you assess global coastal migration for 2030 and 2050? What number of coastal populations are currently displaced? In which countries are the largest movements of people seen?
WL S: Coastal migration has already started, but it is very difficult to be exact because there is no good data for forecasting. We do not know. But it will clearly be older in the future.
And it will happen on both low-lying islands in the Pacific and the Caribbean, and in those countries where people build houses near the coast and experience floods every year like in Bangladesh. We also have to pay attention to places prone to earthquakes. The authorities in the Philippines told me how they are preparing for a major earthquake, which can strike at any moment.
We have to have a policy of adaptation. The more initiatives there are, the less mitigation will be needed. The more we prepare, the less we lose.
IPS: Are more conflicts over resource depletion reported in coastal communities or in other groups such as large fishing operators?
WL S: It is clear that we will have more and more conflicts over food and water shortages, which will be exacerbated by climate change. By the way, if the coastal strip suffered years of overfishing, conflicts will appear.
But not only conflicts can appear. In Indonesia, for example, IOM went to great lengths to evacuate hundreds of fishermen who suffered years of slavery in the fishing industry. With the help of the government, we freed them, cared for them and gave them a normal life back.
IPS: While it is recognized that migration has become a pressing global issue, the lack of sound policies to deal with the problem is attributed to insufficient research and data. Was there any improvement in this regard after the migration crises in Syria, the Middle East, East Africa?
WL S: IOM undertook several initiatives to support better policies. We recently created a Global Data Analysis Center in Berlin. We partner with numerous agencies such as Gallop and the Economic Intelligence Unit, a research arm of The Economist Group. And we are looking for other partners because the lack of data is enormous.
Much of the data we have is patchy and much inadequate, but we already have enough to know what forces are responsible for current and future migrations, including demographic drivers.
We have an aging population in industrialized countries that need workers with varying degrees of skills. And we have a huge young population in the South that needs jobs.
Our forecasts are that countries will inevitably become increasingly multicultural, multi-ethnic and multi-religious.
If this is going to work, the economies will mix and then a fairly straightforward future scenario appears. But the problem is that many national immigration policies are outdated, they were not updated in terms of technology. So we keep running into trouble, when we could turn adversity into opportunity.
IPS: What mitigation, adaptation and prevention policies and actions could affected countries adopt? Which ones are already taking action?
WL S: Even if it is difficult to identify countries because they are all IOM members, Canada, for example, received 25,000 Syrian refugees earlier this year. Several Asian countries like Thailand offer migrants access to free public services because if they are denied they will have to live with a population with health problems. There are other examples of countries taking proactive action, but more is needed.
Translated by Verónica Firme
Inter Press Service - IPS Venezuela