Ravishaan Rahel Muthiah
Director of Communications, The Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants
Natural disasters have forced populations to uproot and relocate across our planet for as long as time can remember. As climate breakdown progresses, migration will become more common.
The year 2023 has been the hottest since records began; we’ve seen an increasing number of extreme weather disasters and lives affected globally, with neighbourhoods submerged into local rivers or set ablaze by wildfires. What happens to the people whose lives are turned upside down overnight?
Justice for climate-displaced people
While we must do everything to prevent climate devastation and ensure people can stay in their communities if they choose to, we also need to adapt — expecting more movement and demanding justice for those who move.
Despite the richest 1% of the world’s population creating twice as many emissions as the poorest 50%, it is the poorest 50% — 3.5 billion people — living overwhelmingly in countries most vulnerable to climate change. They are bearing the brunt of a crisis they did not cause.
Our NHS is held together by migrants — 35% of doctors and 27% of nurses are not UK nationals.
Lawyers at the Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants (JCWI) are representing clients who have moved to the UK due to climate-induced migration; we believe this is only set to increase. As more people are forced to move, governments like ours are closing their borders and making it harder for people to seek safety.
Countries in the global north are largely responsible for causing the havoc wreaked by climate change. The only practical and moral solution is for us to urgently open safe routes for those who come to our shores.
How migration helps the UK
The UK would not be the country it is without migration. Our NHS is held together by migrants — 35% of doctors and 27% of nurses are not UK nationals, and a significant percentage are the children of migrants. Nearly a quarter (24%) of care workers and 13% of the NHS’s scientific, therapeutic and technical staff are migrants.
We have always been dependent on immigration. It enriches our communities and society and will be a key part of the climate crisis solution. The wise thing now is to embrace it, be honest about our history and take responsibility for climate change while recognising how our long history of migration is good for us.