A top European migration policy analyst says the total absence of European policies to mitigate the impacts of climate change on agriculture in Africa, as well as its role as the primary cause of illegal immigration from the Sahel region to Europe, is “deeply concerning”.
In a paper that analyses the effectiveness of European policies to contain the illegal immigration of inhabitants of the Sahel, who cross the Mediterranean on boats launched from Libya, Stefano Torelli said Europe is underestimating the impacts of climate change on agriculture-based livelihoods in Sub-Saharan Africa.
“Environmental changes have a particularly pronounced impact on migration from Africa for at least 4 reasons. The continent is highly dependent on agriculture and natural resources, which are the first assets to be undermined by climate change. Secondly, it has weak institutions, which are less able to adapt to climate change and its high poverty rate undermines the resilience of local populations to climate shocks.
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“The Sahel Belt, which is at the centre of European Union efforts to combat illegal migration in Africa, is a useful case study in this regard. Here, environmental and demographic changes combine with devastating effects. Greenhouse emissions are on the rise, temperatures are increasing and the intensity of catastrophic events is rising dramatically,” Torelli said.
He said the Sahel zones most affected by the death of agricultural productivity due to climate change include the Lake Chad region, which encompasses northern Nigeria, Chad, Niger and Mali. Due to climate change, the lake has shrunk in size, a development which negatively affected up to 25 million people who depend on the lake for agriculture, fisheries and livestock-based livelihoods.
“These countries are the most dependent on agriculture in the world. Agriculture, in turn, is heavily dependent on climate conditions. Considering that 60% of the Sahel population is dependent on rainfed agriculture, it is easy to understand the devastating effects of climate change in the region.
“The combination of poverty, dependence on agriculture, environmental degradation and population growth are creating a vicious cycle, which can only translate into an increase in forced migration,” Torelli said.
To address the policy deficiency, European lawmakers were challenged to place the mitigation of climate change and its impact on agriculture at the centre of the continental policy to tackle illegal immigration from Africa.
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