There have been climate refugees for decades. The situation is getting more serious.

Date: 15.06.2009

All estimates assume that millions of people will be fleeing in the next few years. The consequences for human security could be devastating. These are the main findings of a recent study presented in Bonn during the climate negotiations.

The study "The Impact of Climate Change on Migration and Expulsion" was written by CARE International, the United Nations University Institute for Environment and Human Security (UNU-EHS) and Columbia University's International Earth Science Information Network (CIESIN).

While the EU meets the growing influx of refugees from Africa with increased border security and keeps watching idly as hundreds of people drown in the Mediterranean, Desert Greening wants to offer refugees living space and know-how for a self-sufficient life. Read more about our vision, the Green Wave.

Harald Kautz-Vella on the refugee problem using Niger as an example:

At this point I would like to tell you something about Niger - Algeria's neighbour in the south. The blood that flows in Africa looks the same everywhere. And the stories around it are also similar. To want to write a comprehensive history of Africa would go beyond the scope here anyway.

Moreover, the ecological problems in Niger are similar to those faced by the Abdellaziz family in southern Algeria: drought resulting from radioactive contamination by nuclear bomb tests and uranium mining. An environmental phenomenon that finds its strongest expression in the oppressive low-pressure DOR clouds.

Colonized by France from 1890 to the early 20th century, Niger was declared an autonomous republic within French territories in 1958. Two years later, the first independent government was formed. After military dictatorships and unstable republics, a semi-presidential democracy has now established itself in the capital Niamey, but it is hardly able to meet the basic needs of the population. Drought and desertification weaken susceptible agriculture. According to Transparency International, it is above all corruption, abuse of office and the misappropriation of international aid that repeatedly push the inhabitants of remote rural areas to the brink of starvation.

The Republic of Niger is one of the poorest countries in the world. The main problems are the scarcity of water, the destruction of the already scarce fertile soil and the resulting famines - which are mainly expressed in a high infant mortality rate - increasingly in the desert regions in the north, which account for two thirds of the country's surface area. The nomadic tribes, including the Tuareg, are increasingly having to fight for their own survival and that of their cattle herds. In addition to the usual adversities of nomadism, such as droughts and plagues with locusts, the so-called "low-level war" today threatens the existence of the Nigerian population.

Niger is a typical African country - devide et impera, divide and rule. Take two ethnic groups in a continent traditionally characterised by tribal structures and combine them in an artificially created nation state of western character. Stupid that there can only be one president. In this case it is the Haussa, peasants in the south, and the Tuareg, nomads in the north, who fight for supremacy. The laughing third are the French, in this case the French state corporation AREVA, which extracts 2/3 of the world's uranium mined in Niger and thanks the government for this with a few million dollars a year. This is provided by the Haussa, the uranium is mined in the north by the nomads. The pacification of the mining areas is of course not cheap, i.e. a large part or more should flow back to France for weapons purchases. After all, the Tuareg are now in open revolt, the roads are mined, the desert is out of control and has advanced to the operational area of American terrorist fighters.

these tribes have always been wild and free. Since the 14th century, the nomadic tribes of the Niger, the Woodabe, Peuhl and Tuareg, have been migrating through the Ténéré with their herds. Since only small areas between the wide desert landscapes are to be used as pasture land, they wander through wide regions in their annual cycle. To be able to visit the ancestral pastures with their wells and oases is vital.

With their large camel herds, the Tuareg were the carriers of the desert for generations. Their camel herds ensured intra-African trade, brought salt from the coast and ivory from Central Africa. Meat was exchanged for millet, the staple food of the nomads, with the tribes in the south. Some tribes made life a little easier for themselves and lived as robbers and highwaymen, robbing the passing caravans or slaughtering them - only not to want to fall into suspicion of romanticizing something. With the entry of trucks into the inner-African transport system in the 1950s and 1960s, the camel herds became superfluous and the Tuareg lost their most important economic sector. In the 70s, uranium mining began. The dust from the spoil heaps blew over the land, polluted the wells and brought the atmosphere into this unreal state called DOR. Who knows no rain. That was the beginning of the drought in the Sahel. In Niger, 80 percent of the herds had to be emergency slaughtered, or they perished on the arid plains.

Since then Niger has been living off uranium mining. The so-called Tuareg conflict, which led to serious unrest in the north in 1990, was settled after five years with a peace treaty between the government and the Tuareg tribes. The implementation of this treaty, however, is a problem. The "Mouvement des Nigériennes pour la Justice (MNJ)" continues to demand a fair distribution of uranium profits and the establishment of a functioning regional administration to counter the hopelessness of the rural population. A Chinese engineer has already been kidnapped once in order to emphasize the demand. President Mamadou Tandja, once a general involved in massacres of his own population, was, however, unwilling to negotiate with the "bandits and drug smugglers". The Chinese was released again. Again and again violent incidents occur. In January 2008, the core of the uranium conflict seemed to have been settled with a new agreement: AREVA assured a 50% increase in the price of uranium oil. But an end to the civil war is not in sight. The government troops trained by the USA continue to feel inferior to the Tuareg militarily and send the civilian population all the more. Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch reported on arbitrary arrests and executions, poison gas operations, poisoned wells and confiscated livestock. Many nomadic families move to the mountains, where the pastures are even sparser. Since 2007, there have been no journalists on the ground and no international aid deliveries. Wide stretches of land were mined, and MSF helpers were expelled in July 2008.

This is the state of affairs: the Tuareg are fighting for the right to be hired in the mines or in one of the Yello Cake factories, for recognition as professionally disabled if they suffer from lung cancer at the age of 40. Which is difficult because, at the moment, the only hospital operated by AREVA does not diagnose lung cancer on principle. Those who die here die of AIDS or malaria. At the administrative level, the Tuareg are fighting for a share of the proceeds from the mining rights trade. The military from the south still controls the mines and the cities. The rest of the country is considered ungovernable and is under the control of terrorists - in order to stick to the regional and international nomenclature.

Other African countries are structurally similar. Western Sahara, once a Spanish colony, was sold to Morocco because of the rich phosphate deposits that could continue to be exploited by Spanish companies. The nomads were forcibly resettled or expelled, the displaced people live predominantly in Algeria in refugee camps. Half of the remaining women are forced into prostitution in order to survive - their customers are usually the same Moroccan soldiers who occupy the country in violation of international law. In Nigeria it is the oil. In the Central African Republic of diamonds, gold and tropical wood, in the Congo it is tantalum that arouses the interest of Western governments, corporations and their mercenary armies. Never heard of tantalum? Without tantalum, our cell phones would probably be two centimeters taller and 12 grams heavier.

African refugees come to Europe because they have no perspective in time - so they seek a perspective in space. The eldest sons come before their brothers starve; they come as survivors of the massacres. There are also the child soldiers who can no longer kill. And women for whom the road to the well has become more difficult than the road to Europe. They sell their land, their fishing boats for a last chance. As small as it may seem. For many the flight to Europe is the second flight in their lives - after the expulsion into the hopelessness of the inner-African refugee camps and slums of the big cities.

This is important to know: the refugees who arrive in Europe are only the tip of the iceberg. Africa has between 3 and 5 million people, depending on the institution that estimates them, who seek protection in neighbouring African countries. In addition, there are the internally displaced, homeless people in their own country - their number is estimated by the UNHCR at 11.6 million. Bringing someone from the family to Europe makes sense for these people - according to World Bank calculations, Africans living in Europe or America transfer up to four billion dollars a year back to their homeland. After all, if you are lucky, they may work black on the Spanish strawberry plantations until someone is found who is ready for a fictitious marriage - for the work and residence permit. Sometimes - mostly with the women - the marriage is also consummated. These transfers are by far the largest source of foreign exchange on the continent.

No matter where you look: They are wars over raw materials, financed by Western governments or corporations; or conflicts between nomads and farmers over the scarce resource land, because Western investors buy the fertile fields as investment objects to cultivate cattle feed, coffee, cocoa and ecotropic wood. As so often the case religion, the struggle between Islam and Christianity for the African soul serves as cause and justification for the distribution struggles.

The other part of the refugees have lost their livelihood in a more difficult way - we then call them economic or climate refugees. It is fishermen who have been unemployed since the European fishing fleets emptied the last fish-filled grounds off Africa's coasts. Farmers who, because of subsidised American maize imports, can no longer produce domestic maize at break-even, or nomads who have to flee from their pastures because the dust from uranium mining has poisoned their wells and made their land uninhabitable.

A black man once said about development aid: "You solve your problems at home, and leave us alone, then we can solve our own problems at home.

About 100,000 refugees are currently hoping to enter Europe. Approximately 10,000 refugees pass through every year and find asylum in Europe. This means that 0.1% of refugee flows reach the perpetrators of the misery every year, and they moan under the burden of the foreigners, fearing for their finances and social peace. I would just like to mention this in order to get a balanced picture of the problem.

There are three places in the Sahel that have become a focal point for those who want to leave Africa for Europe: Adre in Chad, Gao in Mali and Agadez in Niger. From there it goes through the Sahara to Algeria, Libya or to the African west coast. In the past the destination was mostly the Moroccan coast, from where the boats went to Spain, but since Morocco has better guarded the borders and has repatriation agreements, especially with Algeria, the route via Libya to Italy enjoys more popularity.

Adre, Gao and Agadez form the centre of a growing "industry": Adre is the point of contact for those coming from countries further south, such as Cameroon, Congo and the Central African Republic. Gao is easy to reach for refugees from Burkina Faso, Ivory Coast, Liberia, Mali, Senegal and Sierra Leone. Agadez, on the other hand, is only a four-hour drive from the Nigerian border.

The refugees pay up to 3,500 euros to the smuggling gangs for the Sahara crossing - about four African annual salaries. Money that consumes itself in these places produces a shadow economy that produces nothing but hope and prostitution. Gao, Adre or Agadez is the penultimate step towards legality - as long as those passing through have IDs from one of the countries of the West African Economic and Monetary Union (Ecowas). The attempt to illegally enter Algeria, for example in Mali, is not a crime either. Only then will it become criminal.

In recent years, refugees from Central Africa have been joined in Algeria by a hopeless domestic youth who saw no way out between civil war, corruption and unemployment. "Harragas" is the name in Maghrebian vocabulary of these people who, since 1994, have been trying to cross the closed national borders into Morocco without a ticket or visa in order to penetrate the Spanish enclaves of Ceuta and Melilla - if they are not stowaways on ships bound for Europe.

The tightening of controls at the Algerian-Moroccan border following the bloody events in Ceuta and Melilla in the autumn of 2005 has now also made the refugee problem an internal Algerian problem - and prompted hundreds of young people to try their luck in one of the ports on the Algerian Mediterranean coast. Sardinia is now the new destination for emigrants departing from here.

Meanwhile the European borders are relatively dense - and the EU uses the spatial relocation of the refugee problem to North Africa to select the refugee flows. According to a BMZ paper, "the African refugees observed and controlled on their journey to the North are examined for their benefit for the needs of the European affluent regions". For example, the EU's MEDA programme, for which Brussels provided some 115 million euros between 2002 and 2004, includes funds to "support the Moroccan authorities in combating illegal migration" as well as funds to "align legal migration with EU needs". An "early filtering of the flow of migrants" is a necessary "component of European refugee policy", writes the Berlin Foundation for International and Security Affairs (SWP).

Who would have thought! That the African slaves would one day pay money to be allowed to move into slavery. But in addition to the normal national egoisms, even the EU is starting to think about whether it would not make more sense to help Africans solve "their" problems instead of struggling with the streams of refugees.

But helping with that is difficult. State development aid is and remains an economic development aid for the industrialized countries - no matter whether it is about developing raw material sources or selling weapons and other high technology.

Even the well-intentioned development aid of the NGOs leads again and again into the same dead end, it turns the people into recipients of charity, destroys the domestic markets, thereby cementing the grievances and the money flowing into the regions returns sooner or later against drugs and weapons to where it came from - a tool of the devil.

For Rolling Thunder, the current medicine man of the Hopi Indians, there is only one way in which a culture can change sustainably. He calls it the Messiah myth: a son of the people must move out, into a foreign country, make his fortune there, and later "experience" return to his homeland. If he succeeds in bringing to life the innovations he has learned in his home culture, these changes have a chance to "outlast seven generations" and thus become an inseparable part of the culture. All other changes, through missionary work, development aid or other well-intentioned or selfish interference, are doomed to failure. Even if they were initially successful, this success would only last one generation at most.

Africa is living proof of his words. Kitwe, in the Zambian copper belt, was one of the richest and most modernly equipped copper deposits in the world in the 70s. 30 years later exactly one shovel loader was still working, the rest of the fleet was shut down due to a lack of spare parts. And this shovel loader drove the 30 km to the city in the morning to fetch the mail for the miners, and the rest of the day with a run up against a wall of copper ore, hoping that one or the other chunk would come loose, fell into the shovel to be carried from there to the world market.

oldAfrica could also become living proof of how a continent can heal through its migrants. If only they were given the experience of building houses from sandbags, planting hanging gardens in their courtyards, obtaining drinking water from dew, growing nutritious mushrooms on waste and leaves, freeing a desert from the curse of radioactive contamination, growing gardens and forests on sand, raising fish and crabs on farms near the coast, unattainable by European fishing fleets. And then these refugees could return home as a host of messiahs.

The refugees - one could say - are the special biological programme to save the continent, the immune system of the African soul. We should respect this soul and give it back its self-respect. Let them learn instead of interning them, torture them with bans on work and boredom. And when we send the chosen ones back among them, we should do so by lovingly leading them to their destiny.

Madjid Abdellaziz - now with 30 hectares of agricultural land on the edge of the Sahara - has spoken to these people. He says they don't want to go to Europe. They want a perspective. They would stay if there was work, houses, food, if they got a chance to support their families at home or catch up.

Finally a link to an article about climate refugees ( )

Source: CARE Germany-Luxembourg e.V.

Source: ECO-News - the green press agency

Partner: Dr. Franz Alt Journalist,

D-76530 Baden-Baden

Category:Politics & Society

Date: 15.06.2009