Arab spring, drought and climate change fuel migration boom

The results of an investigation shows for the first time proven links between extreme phenomena and mass displacements. Data on asylum applications were analyzed in 157 countries between 2006 and 2015. The correlation in Syria, Yemen, Libya and Tunisia is particularly evident. It is necessary to help people to mitigate and manage the effects of changes.

Beirut (AsiaNews) - The serious episodes of drought recorded in recent years, probably worsened by global warming, have sharpened the conflicts in the countries of the early Arab Spring, forcing people to flee. These are the results that emerge from an investigation published yesterday, which speaks of "clear evidence" of links between extreme phenomena at the climatic level and mass migrations.

The study used data on asylum applications in 157 countries in the world, in the period between 2006 and 2015. The latter were associated with a drought measuring index and another ​​relating to deaths in situations of war, to fully assess the links between climate change, conflict and migration.

The results of the research, published by the journal Global Environmental Change, show a particular correlation between extreme weather events and conflicts in different parts of the Middle East and North Africa, particularly in the period between 2010 and 2012. In this period of time , many countries in the area have undergone profound internal changes at the political, institutional and social levels in the context of the Arab Spring uprisings.

Among the countries in which the correlation is most evident we have Syria, Yemen, Tunisia and Libya. With the exception of Tunisia, the other three nations are still the scene of conflicts, civil wars or bloody infighting. The researchers also underline a climate bond with the conflicts that then triggered migrations in sub-Saharan Africa in the same three-year period examined; this link no longer emerged in other periods of time.

"Climate change" in itself is not enough to "trigger a conflict" and to provoke "waves of migration" underlines Jesus Crespo Cuaresma, a researcher at the International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis and a professor at the Faculty of Economics at the University of Vienna. However, adds the co-author of the investigation, in a particular "context" of "inadequate governance and the average level of democracy", a serious climatic phenomenon can "provoke conflicts due to scarcity of resources".

Raya Muttarak, a member of the research team and a professor at the University of East Anglia's School of International Development, explains that the study highlights a link between droughts and asylum seekers. In these conditions, in fact, the data jumps from 95% to 146% compared to situations in which the climatic conditions are normal.

Among the reasons that led the research, the peak of migrants to Europe recorded in 2015 with the arrival of over one million refugees. Hence the need for better management of basic resources such as water, to manage migratory pressures. Furthermore, adds Muttarak, it is necessary to prevent "exploitation" on "ethnic basis".

Analyzing the African reality in depth, the president of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) emphasizes that it is necessary "to help people to improve their capacity to manage the effects of climate change and violence". This combination, he adds, risks becoming "an explosive mix that will not end in the short term". Local solutions include greater use of solar energy and small dams to collect water, along with a strengthening of education, training and work to find new resources in a fragile environment.