NEWS

Warming to swell refugee tide

Top government officials, environmental experts and representatives of immigrant protection groups yesterday agreed that Greece had to do its bit in preparing for the impact of climate change on environmental refugees. The repercussions of global warming on the environment, such as floods, combined with the current global food crisis, will force millions of Third World citizens to flee their homes over the coming years but there is no plan to tackle this problem, experts told an international conference on climate change and human security in Athens. Foreign Minister Dora Bakoyannis said individual countries, or groups of countries, cannot tackle the problem, stressing that a global initiative was needed. Greece makes a relatively small contribution to global warming but is very active in providing aid for poor nations struggling with the impact of climate change, she added. Bakoyannis also noted that women and children were the most vulnerable victims of climate change, as it is usually harder for them to relocate, and so should receive greater support. Also children are much more vulnerable to infection by malaria, whose spread is facilitated by rising temperatures. The director of the Hellenic Migration Policy Institute, Alexandros Zavos, also stressed the importance of crisis management on a global scale. «Who will be responsible for tackling the impending crisis? Where will the environmental refugees go?» Zavos remarked, noting that some 250 million refugees are expected to have been displaced by 2050. Zavos suggested the creation of a new international organization to manage the problem if it is not undertaken by the United Nations. According to Dimitris Zenghelis, an adviser to the British government and an expert on global warming, the repercussions of climate change are likely to be much worse than anticipated. «We have been accused of exaggerating the economic impact of climate change. I believe that we have underestimated it, as we have not taken immigration into account,» he said.