The Green Party of England and Wales voted on the 23rd of October to expand the definition of refugee to include those who have fled their homes due to the climate emergency.
This motion also proposed including those persecuted on the grounds of any characteristic protected under the Equality Act of 2010, such as LGBT rights, as refugees. It was passed with “overwhelming support,” according to Benali Hamdache, Green Party Migration and Refugee Support spokesperson.
This statement comes as the UK House of Commons reviews the “Nationality and Borders Bill,” a piece of legislation that seeks to curb illegal immigration and remove immigrants in the UK who have arrived by illegal means. The bill includes such provisions as four years jail time for those who arrive illegally, and has been criticized by human rights group Freedom from Torture as the “biggest legal assault on international refugee law ever seen in the UK.”
Hamdache said that “What the Green Party conference agreed today is a compassionate antidote to the cruel hostility this government is showing towards refugees and asylum seekers.”
Climate refugees are an issue of increasing concern for human rights groups worldwide. The World Bank estimates that over 140 million people could be displaced by the climate crisis by 2050. In the face of this growing crisis, many fear that human rights may go by the wayside, leading to “climate apartheid.”
Governments have been taking notice: In the U.S, the Biden administration recently released a report on the impact of climate change on migration, acknowledging that more needs to be done. Still, some have expressed dismay with the lack of concrete policy proposals contained within the report. Amali Tower, founder of nonprofit advocacy group Climate Refugees, suggested that the Biden administration, include a plan to expand refugee categories to include climate refugees. However, this proposal did not make it into the final report.