Throughout the history of human civilization, there has been one thing that has been a constant for humans: Migration. This is something that has allowed for rich cultures to be created, from the first settlers in the Fertile Crescent to the diverse mix of individuals that creates the society that we have today. However, something that stands out for most of these large-scale migrations is that they are either the result of natural disasters, persecution, economic opportunities, or war. Climate migration is an extension of the first category, with its formal definition being the displacement of a population due to weather conditions or infrastructure damage caused directly by climate change. There are numerous different factors that can contribute to the need for climate migration. Some of the most important factors to emphasize are gentrification, lack of proper infrastructure adaptation, and the lack of a long-term plan for a community. This is something that is highlighted within my previous articles concerning flooding and wildfires in California and Greece. When communities are at a point that their economic or health condition is perilous due to climate change, migration might be the only way for them to remain safe. With this being said, there are several things that we have to consider whether or not climate migration will be a primary way of adapting to the changing environment. What are some of the policies and obstacles related to climate migration? Based on historic migration patterns, what reception can we expect in the government and populace of these geographic areas? What solutions can be applied to both geographic regions? Finally, how can we ensure that there exists effective cultural preservation for these at-risk groups?
Policy and History of Internal Migration in Greece
Historically, Greece has had several issues surrounding immigration and emigration within the country’s political system. Due to the current economic conditions, this issue has been made worse by the lack of resources and interventions for these groups. There has been migration in and out of the Balkans, Turkey, and the Middle East. There have been numerous difficulties with economic and sociopolitical support. Greece has had several conflicts surrounding racism and immigration, specifically refugees from outside of Greece. Far-right political parties have created an active opposition to the integration of other cultures and peoples.  However, regulations by the EU are starting to take effect to better support these people and migration into Greece in general. Currently, the wildfires in Greece are becoming a prevalent indication that these policies and issues need to be acted upon sooner than later. Many people are being forced to flee their homes and villages with no promise of a stable living environment or cultural preservation. These areas need to anticipate this accommodation of these internal migrants
Internal Migration Policy Issues in California
Currently, In California, policies are being implemented to revise the current infrastructure and insurance policies to accommodate for these wildfires that are a direct product of climate change. Many people find the increase in insurance to be troublesome and counterproductive instead of building structures that are specifically adapted to better suit these climate changes. In California, much of the climate migration is focused on the wildfires. Therefore, in California, the climate conditions indicate that we should place more emphasis on the revision of housing, including affordable housing for those affected in lower-income areas. In addition, climate migrants from both poor and wealthy areas should be mixed into mixed-income housing. This type of development incorporates individuals from a variety of racial and socioeconomic backgrounds and combines affordable and market-rate housing.  This can create a more connected and diverse community that is easier to support and accommodate as a whole. But, like many other policies and advancements, there can be opposition to this type of housing. There are some people who believe that this type of housing is intrusive or takes away from the character of a community. These people, defined as NIMBYS, or “Not in My Backyard”, do not support and actively oppose the development of affordable housing. While education as to why this is not the case can be helpful, there are some people that are still adamant about this perceived threat.
International Migration in Greece and Europe
Greece and Europe are destination locations for refugees fleeing violence in their homelands. One such country is Syria. Syria is a country that has had many immigrants and migrants to and from Greece. Greece is one of the four major paths used by migrants to flee to the EU, and is one of the shortest distances for those escaping war-torn countries  the other routes into the EU are heavily guarded and patrolled, meaning that Greece is used as a gateway more often because of these regulations. These immigration routes include the Baltics, Africa, and the Central, East, and West Mediterranean routes. Something that also is very troubling about this policy system is that families seeking asylum. For example, in the podcast “Crossing Borders”, the experience of one such migrant and his family is highlighted. Initially, the asylum application of the young man was accepted, but those of his parents were not. They were torn apart because of this policy, and he was only reunited with his family many years later, when their case was reconsidered.  This story highlights several important factors regarding the legal systems and accommodations for migrants, in all regions of the world.
International Migration in California
The economic impacts for imposing climate migration are currently a mixed bag, as it may be for Europe. Opposition and bias are experienced by many immigrants from Central America and outlying regions. Yet again, we are forced to look at the impacts of racism and societal hierarchy. Policy and awareness is something that is at the heart of the issue of immigration. Not only does this directly relate to the policies regarding physical capabilities of migration and infrastructure modification, but allowing for those who suffer from the aftermath of climate migration to be stably situated in the new environment and become adjusted and welcomed in their new community. This principle is clearly demonstrated in the situation of the Dry Corridor in the Northern Triangle of Central America. This region is in the intersection of Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras, and Nicaragua.  This area is particularly impacted by climate change, specifically droughts brought on by the tropical climate pattern of El Nino.  Since the harvests and economical prospect of this area is being ravaged due to colonialism and climate disruption, many families have considered migration to be something that would allow for them to continue to prosper in the near future. However, the relationship between this corridor and the United States is very tense given the former’s xenophobia, which gives rise to many questions surrounding the adaptation of immigration policy.
Race, Riots, and Redlining
The history of redlining and housing discrimination must be dealt with when working with climate migrants in the U.S context. In many areas, this has been a problem for centuries and is still an ongoing problem to this day. While this is a problem in both the United States and in Europe, this paragraph primarily focuses on the problems faced in the United States. Historically, the practice of redlining was implemented to prevent ethnic minorities, particularly African Americans, from being housed in the same or areas adjacent to whites. This policy divided cities and subsequently separated areas with better infrastructure and more resources for the white population, furthering the economic divide between races. Areas that have tried to undo policies that were blatantly discriminatory have faced riots from the surrounding communities.  Another element of redlining is that populations residing in redlined areas were historically prevented from owning homes. While this demographic and need for homeownership has shifted, we need to be aware of several issues that might happen along these similar lines for climate migrants. Will they be given the chance to adequately incorporate into their new community? While the United States specifically implemented policies to prevent housing discrimination based on gender, sexual orientation, race, or socioeconomic status , examples of more subliminal separation are still existent. There are communities that are built around different economic classes, such as suburbs and urban areas, but cities are where this incorporation is highly important in order for fair housing for all climate migrants to be built.
Migration and Camps in the US and Greece
Something that is also a concern surrounding policy and migration in both Europe and the United States are migrant detention camps. When immigrants from other geographic regions or countries are unable to obtain a visa or other forms of identification necessary for them to be relocated into a community at the time of their immigration or are suspected to have immigrated illegally, they are put into immigrant detention camps. However, the original purpose of these camps and what they have become, in both examples in the United States and in Europe, vary drastically. In Greece, these camps have been dubbed “concentration camps”, due to the fact that the population in these camps outnumbers that of Greek prisons and is meant as a clear method of segregation.  These camps were originally created as a temporary means to house migrants until they could obtain the necessary documentation and permissions to be placed within a community, which would take three months. This has changed to become a time frame of a year or more.  In the United States, this limit is six months for processing related to immigration. While there are still several noticeable discrepancies in the United States, something that is concerning in Greece is the political ideology blatantly enforced by the current minister of national defense stating that large-scale immigration is “a bomb aimed at the foundations of society and of the state”.  These camps are particularly concerning when we look at the overall picture of immigration and climate migration in Greece. Many of the refugees and migrants sent to Greece are put into these camps, which are barring them from the help that they might receive elsewhere in the EU. Therefore, more emphasis on quick action for these refugees and stricter regulations on the time periods that these refugees may need to stay in any camp is of high priority.
Policy Solution in the US and Greece
There are, however, several policies that are in place to protect against some of the issues that come up with Climate migration. Something that is being discussed in Europe is the fact that if Greece is struggling to make ends meet with climate refugees, just by admitting that they might need more help can outsource refugees and provide more economic resources. There have been several reasons why this help was not able to be previously implemented, but these policies can now be used to their full effectiveness. In the US, some policies that may aid climate migrants are the policy that prevents housing discrimination. This means that anyone of any race or socioeconomic status is not to be discriminated against by landlords and mortgage companies. These laws have been put into place to counteract the historical negative effects of Redlining, which segregated and discriminated against African Americans and other People of Color from owning or renting housing in specific areas. This is something that needs to be addressed by way of policy change and enforcement for migration to take effect in a meaningful way that is beneficial in the long term.
The Idea of “Hereness” and Cultural Preservation
Cultural preservation is a large concern for communities displaced by climate migration. Many of the cultural practices within these groups of people have been firmly rooted in their environment, which can cause a degree of fear of separation. For example, communities such as New Orleans are in areas that are facing the constant threat of climate migration and retreat. Something that can be used to counter fear of cultural loss is an ideology called “Hereness”. “Hereness” originated from Bundism, an ideology that came to prominence in the period of time during the persecution of Jews worldwide, and something that is noticeably different from nationalism is the sense of home and place. This idea highlighted that culture does not have to be associated with any given place for a diasporic group, and can be brought anywhere to any location to call home.  This idea has been transferred to Greece through the Socialist Workers Federation. By bringing this ideology to light, much of the tension created from unanticipated migration can be alleviated or solutions can be created to incorporate culture into a new geographical area, and create a more connected perspective from a community.
Climate Migration and Policy
There are several downfalls within the current policy system that need to be addressed in order to anticipate climate migration. The system that these immigrants must go through to enter a country is extremely difficult to go through, and even for the agencies to fund . Because of these poor living conditions and bleak outlook of this situation, many immigrants have viewed facing death as more bearable than having to go through this broken system and watch their families and loved ones suffer.  The policies and physical resources allotted for these people are exhausted beyond capacity, and no further action is possible without outside intervention. In this case, organizations such as charities and churches may need to intervene to provide support. For some groups of religious denominations, this can be a source of a common hope. Something else that can bring hope to these groups is that of cultural transfer, or the ability to bring old cultural practices, traditions, and customs to a new environment. This is something that is highly stressed in many plans and debates about climate migration. Many forms of culture can be carried over via migration and, occasionally, a few sources of income and economic stability might remain constant. If we are able to improve these policies, we can also prevent large distance migration and be able to keep communities closer to where they might originate.
Solutions and Conclusion: What can we do?
In conclusion, there are several facets to climate migration that we need to take into account to create a better picture of its impact on communities in Greece and California in the future. Firstly, in order for us to change the impact that climate migration will have, we firstly have to protect our existing communities, not focusing on retreat as being our only option. When retreat has to become an option, we need to have set in place several policies to better aid the migration from these communities. Firstly, we need to remember what has been historically a large issue with the ideas of “acceptable” migration and systemic racism. Camps for undocumented immigrants have proved to be a major issue and violation of civil rights in both the United States and Europe. These camps were initially created to house immigrants for 3-6 months at most, but these time limits have been disregarded and individuals have resided in these camps for 12 months and counting.  We also need to take into account policies for housing integration once migrants are placed within a community. Particularly in the United States, redlining, or the racial injustice of separation of Whites and other races, is something that will forever overshadow housing policy as we know it. This discrimination is a pattern that we must be careful not to repeat, meaning that we have to put constant effort into revising these policies and actively lobby against these injustices. Finally, something that is vital for a community to truly belong to and foster in their new home is the idea of “Hereness”. This ideology helps bring to light the idea that non-indigineous culture is not always tied to place, and much like how migrants brought cultures to regions in the past and passed down their traditions, this is possible for those who may be subject to climate migration. Fundamentally, our connection to our culture is what makes us who we are, and that is something that can transcend time and place.
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