Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Refugees Risk Sovereignty

At the Pacific Island Forum, Australia's Prime Minister Kevin Rudd was asked if Australia would be prepared to accept climate refugees from neighboring island nation states if climate change raises sea levels to render low lying islands inhospitable. His answer was telling:
‘Let’s be blunt about the order of priorities here. One is a set of actions agreed to by the international community which minimise the impact of coastal inundation as we minimise the impact of climate change but taking the mitigation measures that are outlined in the possible contents of a new framework agreement and the various national actions to be undertaken here in Australia.’'
Rudd sidestepped the question. Refugees represent a threat to a nation's sovereignty because they undermine the control states have over their borders. Territorial integrity is one of the hallmarks of a sovereign nation. For Australia, controlling its borders are easier. It's an island; refugees from neighboring states such as Kiribati would have to arrive by boat with plenty of warning. However, in the Middle East, refugees created by environmental devastation could create security problems. The recently released Arab Development Report 2009 states:
Spreading drought, reduced water levels in rivers, stunted agricultural production and incursion by sea water will force large numbers of people to emigrate, turning millions of people, particularly in the Nile River Delta and coastal areas in the Arab Gulf, into “environmental refugees.” These developments could affect not only human security among communities, but national and regional security as well. Such severe changes may also affect political stability and increase domestic tension.
Already, Syria and Iraq face devastating water shortages. The region contains refugee camps in Palestine, disputed political sovereignty by the Kurds, and a war in Iraq. Refugees fleeing from drought ridden farm land would heighten these border disputes in an area beset with border integrity issues.

1 comment:

  1. The name of Australia's Prime Ministeris Kevin Rudd, not Paul Rudd.