Europe must prepare for a massive increase in asylum applications, as many environmental threats will displace more than 1.2 billion people over the next 30 years, according to a new study from Institute for Economics and Peace (IEP).
The study reports that water and food shortages will cause mass migration from at least 31 countries that are failing to cope with the environmental crisis, with a significant amount of displaced people seeking to settle in Europe.
“The resulting displacement will be on a much larger scale than the migration crisis at the turn of 2015 and 2016 if nothing is done to tackle environmental degradation,” the institute’s founder Steve Killelea told The Independent.
Parts of sub-Saharan Africa, South Asia, the Middle East, and North Africa face a perfect storm of environmental problems and instability, accoding to the IEP, which has analyzed several factors such as population growth, food shortages, drought, floods, rising temperatures sea levels, and nations’ resilience to resist a climate crisis.
Nineteen countries with the highest number of environmental threats are also among the 40 least peaceful countries in the world, such as Afghanistan, Syria, Iraq, Chad, India, and Pakistan, according to Czech news portal Idnes.cz.
“Some of these countries are already trapped in a vicious circle, where competition for limited resources leads to conflict and further depletion of resources,” the study said. According to experts, the lack of drinking water and food will be a key driver that will cause further instability.
“Unless there is urgent global cooperation, access to food and water will worsen over the next 30 years,” said Killelea, noting that if there is no change, unrest and conflict will increase.
Pakistan is the worst off
According to the IEP, the country with the largest population at risk of displacement is Pakistan, which is facing floods and a shortage of drinking water and food supplies. It is followed by Ethiopia and Iran. Haiti faces the biggest threat in Central America.
The study warned that even relatively small environmental threats and natural disasters could lead to mass displacement of the population and thus affect regional and global security.
Richer and more developed countries in Europe and North America face fewer environmental threats and will be better equipped to adapt to climate change, but will not be immune to its effects.
Europe must be careful
“Europe must pay attention to this. We saw what happened when two million migrants arrived in Europe in 2015 and 2016. We have seen the associated political instability and the rise of new political parties,” stressed Killelea.
“If we do not do something to solve these environmental problems, migration will take place on a much larger scale than we have seen in recent years,” he concluded.
Last year’s extreme weather led to the displacement of 24 million people, with more than nine million having to flee their homes due to conflict and other disasters.
According to the UN, more than one percent of humanity currently faces displacement. According to the organization, about four out of five displaced seek refuge in neighboring countries.
Germany’s Green Party has previously launched a proposal that could see Germany accept up to 150 million climate refugees from the Third World, arguing that the already heavily-populated country has enough space to take them in.
Title image: Migrant aboard the Golfo Azurro rescue vessel wait to be transferred to Italian authorities in Trapani harbor, on the Italian island of Sicily, Saturday, April 8, 2017. On Thursday Proactiva Open Arms NGO rescued 230 migrants, from African and Asian countries, in boats trying to cross the Mediterranean Sea. (AP Photo/Bernat Armangue)