Forced Migration in the Context of Disasters and Crises

Nazlı Ayhan Algan
Executive Director, Association of Assistance Solidarity and Support for Refugees and Asylum-Seekers (ASRA)

A concept that has been around for some time and expanding in terms of scope is the protection of the rights of people who are forced to leave their homes due to disasters and crises. It can be argued that the scope of protection should be expanded, both in theory and practice, to include forced migration that has occurred as a result of the impact of climate change.

As in Syria and Afghanistan, the number of people migrating due to instability and conflicts in their home countries is constantly increasing. In addition, another concept, climate migration, has emerged following the global climate crisis and its direct impact on the agriculture and livestock sectors. The sociological and economic effects of climate migration have become more visible as well. As a vital element of migration processes, from past to present, Türkiye has become a receiving country rather than a sending and transit country, especially in recent years. Türkiye is also facing the climate crisis and the risks of internal migration that comes with it.

According to the Fifth Assessment Report published by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) in 2014, the Mediterranean Basin, including Türkiye, is among the regions that will suffer the most from the adverse impacts of climate change. Rising temperatures will likely reduce precipitation rates, crop yields, biodiversity, and groundwater resources and lead to drought and wildfires. Along with desertification and a decrease in agricultural diversity, climate change will negatively affect the economy and the livelihoods of people. If the demand for agricultural products is not met by the domestic market, products will be brought in from other countries. Unavoidably, people working in agriculture and livestock will be in quest of something else, which will lead to internal migration.

Established in 2015 and active since then, the Association of Assistance Solidarity and Support for Refugees and Asylum-Seekers (ASRA) highlights the importance of an integrated approach to disaster governance that will include civic engagement along with central and local governments in order to minimize economic and social losses and the destruction resulting from the events faced by today’s risk society.

“Integrated disaster management,” also defined as contemporary disaster management, aims to integrate advanced disaster recovery implementation and social implementation. Aside from being principally defined in Türkiye’s Disaster Management Strategy Document and Action Plan (TAYSB) in terms of direction and method, disaster management also requires collective action. In this sense, briefly stated: disaster and emergency management that has immediate and long-term effects requires the active and significant participation of all actors in the social structure.

ASRA carries out its activities within the framework of emergency action plans to meet the urgent and primary needs of the target groups immediately after the emergence of a crisis. Then, it creates projects to meet special and specific needs within the framework of its reconstruction and rehabilitation works. From this perspective, as a civil initiative, ASRA provides individuals affected by disasters and emergencies with support in various matters, including humanitarian aid, cash assistance, protection, livelihood development, agriculture and sustainability, health and psychological resilience.

When we analyze the case of 2021, which was an important year for humanitarian action, two main concepts stand out: the pandemic and relief activities. COVID-19 cannot be considered a phenomenon that only belongs to 2020 as it continued to be effective the following year with new variants. The fact remains that, in 2021, uneven economic development led to greater inequality, the tension between different social segments was more visible, and nature was pushed beyond its limits. We think that the basic fact concluded from multiple experiences in the field is that all organized structures (public institutions, civil society, etc.) within the humanitarian aid community are connected in some way in the face of natural disasters happening unexpectedly and simultaneously. For this very reason, it is necessary to establish an integrated and coordinated disaster recovery system. In the face of predictable and unpredictable incidents, public institutions and civil society should mobilize their resources and shape and restructure themselves and their relations with each other by considering the necessities. The main institutional and inter-institutional context awaiting humanitarian aid actors in the coming period is to add depth and continuity to the potential arising from coordinated cooperation and solidarity in the field.

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