Forced migration: a new challenge
- Parliamentary Assembly
debate on 22 April 2016 (18th Sitting) (see Doc. 13983, report of the Committee on Migration, Refugees and
Displaced Persons, rapporteur: M. Philippe Bies). Text adopted by the Assembly on
22 April 2016 (18th Sitting).
1. According to the Office of the
United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, about 50 million
people have been displaced worldwide in recent years because of
conflicts, persecution and violence, or as a result of natural,
chemical or nuclear disasters.
2. Despite having grown in intensity, the above-mentioned factors
are not recognised by the international conventions governing migration
and there is no international instrument designed to protect persons
forced to move for reasons other than political or security-related
3. The Parliamentary Assembly further notes that there is no
agreement on the terminology used or on the definition of victims
of forced migration. Applying the term “refugee” to victims of forced
migration is controversial as environmental factors are non-discriminatory
and no form of “persecution” is involved in these situations.
4. According to the Intergovernmental Panel for Climate Change,
the movement of people could be the biggest single consequence of
climate change in the coming years. It also estimates that the flow
of environmental migrants will reach 150 million by 2050, while
the “Stern Review: The Economics of Climate Change” puts the figure
at closer to 200 million.
5. The Assembly underlines that the impact of climate change
and natural, chemical or nuclear disasters varies depending on the
vulnerability and adaptability of the populations concerned, and
on the capacity of States to prevent or deal with such events.
6. The Assembly emphasises the need to acknowledge the vulnerability
of the populations concerned and to remedy any gaps in their protection
7. The Assembly recalls, however, that the international conventions
provide for an indirect right of admission and residence if sending
a person back to their country of origin would amount to inhuman treatment,
thus enabling the principle of non-refoulement to
8. Referring to existing guidelines and international standards,
the Assembly notes that these texts apply only in exceptional cases
and for a limited time.
9. In this context, the Assembly welcomes the steps taken by
Sweden and Finland to grant temporary protection in cases of environmental
displacement and also the Nansen Initiative led by the Governments
of Norway and Switzerland, which is intended to fill the legal gap
in the protection of people displaced as a result of natural, chemical
or nuclear disasters.
The Assembly therefore recommends that member States:
10.1 give greater priority to devising
protection policies and norms for victims of natural, chemical or nuclear
disasters and for the victims of the consequences of climate change;
10.2 acknowledge the vulnerability of these groups and ensure
that their fundamental rights are fully observed;
10.3 review the relevant international rules and expand them
to include a definition for these migrants;
10.4 revise the 1951 Geneva Convention relating to the Status
of Refugees, by means, for example, of an additional protocol;
10.5 adopt measures to prohibit any over-exploitation of natural
resources and pursue solutions aimed at meeting people’s fundamental
10.6 implement strategies for the successful integration of
persons displaced for environmental reasons, whether they are internally
displaced or have been forced to emigrate to another State;
10.7 ensure full respect for the fundamental rights of displaced
persons and take the necessary measures to resettle the populations
concerned, especially in cases where their territory has disappeared
as a result of natural, nuclear or chemical disasters;
10.8 prepare country/regional reports in order to gather information
and assess the outlook for environmental migration.