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ADB Regional Conference on Policy Responses to Climate Change and Migration in Asia and the Pacific 14 – 16 September 2011
DISCLAIMER: The views expressed in this paper are the views of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views or policies of the Asian Development Bank (ADB), or its Board of Governors, or the governments they represent. ADB does not guarantee the accuracy of the data included in this paper and accepts no responsibility for any consequence of their use. The countries listed in this paper do not imply any view on ADB's part as to sovereignty or independent status or necessarily conform to ADB's terminology.
Migration in the Greater Mekong Sub-region (GMS)
GMS = Burma (Myanmar), Cambodia, Lao PDR,
Thailand, Vietnam and the Yunnan Province of China.
The GMS is home to more than 240 million people,
including an estimated 3 million migrants.
Thailand is the major receiving country for migrants in
the region, hosting around 2-2.5 million migrants, while Cambodia and the Yunnan province of China also host a number of migrants.
many migrants are long term residents in their host
most migration in the region is spontaneous and through
ethnic groups residing along the borders are often
related to people on the other side of the border who belong to the same ethnic nationality and therefore the movement across the borders has long been a part of their daily lives
In the 1960s to 1980s, migrants from the GMS were
mostly refugees fleeing wars and repressive regimes.
In the 1990s, the population movements became a mix
of refugees and labour migration.
Climate Change Predictions for the GMS
The Mekong Delta region in Vietnam and the Tonle Sap
Lake region in Cambodia likely to be the hardest hit.
CSIRO‟s (2008) predictions for the Mekong Delta region, by
• A temperature increase of 0.79 °C („with greater increases for colder catchments in the north of the basin‟); • A rainfall increase of 0.2 m per year; • An increase in rainfall during the dry season in the North and a simultaneous decrease in dry season precipitation in the South; • Increased flooding in all parts of the basin, particularly in catchments located downstream of the Mekong; • Increased salinity; and • Negative impacts on capture fisheries and rice production
Eastham, J., F. Mpelasoka, M. Mainuddin, C.Ticehurst, P. Dyce, G. Hodgson, R. Ali and M. Kirby, 2008. Mekong River Basin Water Resources Assessment: Impacts of Climate Change. CSIRO: Water for a Healthy Country National Research Flagship.
Climate-Induced Displacement Policies: Human Rights Concerns
Major concern: excessive / restrictive categorisation or
labelling of migrants: impact of restrictive labelling currently evident at various levels in the Mekong and internationally
There is a risk that by solely focussing on climate
change in policy terms that a large number of people who are considered to be migrating for “other reasons” might be excluded from protection or assistance.
A migrant worker from Burma living in Thailand will nearly
always explain the cause of their migration as economic but the repressive nature of the military junta may in reality be the root cause of poverty and migration. Economic migrants such as these commonly use brokers to reach the Thai-Burma border and again in Thailand to find employment. They are given jobs working for 10 hours a day in garment factories, as domestic workers, and in other manual jobs, paid US$2-4 a day Threatened with deportation if they make any demands for their rights. Could return home but would find it difficult to survive.
Have these migrants committed the crime of being smuggled and are thus deserving of punishment and deportation, or are they victims of trafficking and therefore deserving of protection and compensation? Or should they be respected as people taking responsibility for their own survival and for the survival of their communities?
Pressure on rights groups to define and demarcate their
Anti-trafficking groups, refugee groups and migrants
groups each define their own messages, services and advocacy, and governments and local populations react differently to each of these groups.
ever-restrictive use of categories at national, regional
and international levels to define and demarcate between a trafficked person, a smuggled person, a refugee, a documented migrant and an undocumented migrant limits effective responses.
The reality of people‟s lives is far more complex than one
label can encompass.
a broader more flexible approach should be preferred
taking into account the entirety of a migrant‟s experience– including the multiplicity of push factors that in sum led to a person choosing migration as an adaptation response.
Increased understanding of the interplay of push
factors (eg. livelihood stress, population growth, government policies…) with environmental factors will enable research and policy bodies alike better address climate-induced migration patterns in the future.
Flexibility in policy-terms will also be crucial in order to
adapt to the unknown as it occurs.
climate change policies in GMS countries continue to
be developed unilaterally
adaptation strategies remain chiefly focused on
climate-change mitigation and disaster relief management, and rarely consider migration as a possible adaptation response
Increased bilateral and multilateral negotiation and
cooperation is vital
However collaboration and dialogue must seek to
strengthen the human rights framework for ALL migrants
Language of Fear
caution against the use of emotive terminology in
climate change discourse: „tsunami‟, „tidal wave‟, „flood‟ of asylum seekers
This language of fear perpetuates xenophobic
attitudes, and can have a negative impact on the development of appropriate tailored policy responses.
email@example.com Mekong Migration Network