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White House report proposes granting refugee status for ‘climate change activism’

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DCNFBryan Babb, DCNF

A Thursday White House report on climate change and national security proposed granting refugee status for individuals identified as “climate change activists” or “environmental defenders.”

“Climate activists, or environmental defenders, persecuted for speaking out on government inaction on climate change may also have a plausible claim to refugee status,” the report said. It notes that if a government “withholds or denies relief from the impacts of climate change” to people who “share a protected characteristic in a manner and to a degree amounting to persecution,” then these individuals could also be “eligible for refugee status.”

The report goes on to discuss actions for the U.S. government to consider in addressing the relationship between climate change and migration, including considering claims based on “climate change activism” and situations where individuals may not be granted governmental relief from climate change’s impact.

The suggested actions also urge the U.S. government to develop a secondary report focusing on climate change’s impact on migration within the U.S., specifically highlighting densely populated areas and those experiencing sharp climate change.

The report follows a surge of migrants at the U.S. southern border, with border officials encountering 210,000 migrants in July, challenging historical trends.

President Joe Biden ordered the report in February, after signing an executive order that focused in-part on rebuilding and expanding the United States Refugee Admissions Program. The report notes that this is the first time “the U.S. Government is officially reporting on the link between climate change and migration.”

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