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Editor's Note | Winter 2022

This issue of Insight Turkey aims to present the current intertwined situation of climate change and migration by providing its readers with a general framework of the global natural challenges facing migrants and refugees and highlighting different migration and refugee policies from a selection of cases. We hope that this issue will pave the way for future research into the relationship between climate change and migration and the necessary policies that need to be undertaken in this regard.

Editor's Note Winter 2022




Climate change and migration are two major phenomena that are constantly altering our planet and need a broad perspective to comprehend. Climate change has lately risen to the top of the worldwide agenda, and both the international community and national governments are scrambling to find adequate answers to its overwhelming impacts on the planet and its people. Migration has become a sobering concern, both as an epiphenomenal repercussion of climate change and as an inherent dynamic in and of itself, particularly in the light of recent mass movements of people from war-torn countries such as Syria, Afghanistan, and, most recently, Ukraine due to Russia’s invasion.

Climate change is becoming one of the most powerful forces driving human migration; many observers claim that in the near future its impact may exceed all man-made impacts. Although violence, persecution, and poverty have always driven people to leave their homes and their countries, climate change and natural disasters such as massive earthquakes, destructive floods, and global warming are increasingly impacting migratory patterns. The current global climate emergency has begun to influence not only the security of humans but also nation-states. While some natural disasters such as earthquakes and floods cause direct and immediate human displacements, climate change-related emergencies such as drought and erosion cause slow but steady migrations. As incremental climate change can increase the risk of natural disasters, their consequences will have vital implications for displacements (local or cross-border) and international policymaking.

The right to a healthy and humane environment includes the enjoyment of a safe, clean, and sustainable climate, which is crucial to human existence and well-being. It is the responsibility of all states to take necessary measures such as preparing rights-based decarbonization plans, achieving zero carbon emissions, decreasing the use of fossil fuels, protecting vulnerable peoples, and increasing climate finance. In other words, maintaining a safe climate and protecting human rights are two interrelated issues.

While most observers have been focusing on the movement of people leaving their homes and countries due to war and political crises, far less attention has been given to the millions fleeing their homes and countries due to climate change or other natural disasters. According to the International Displacement Monitoring Center, since 2008 more than 21 million people on average per year have been displaced due to different natural disasters.

The capacity of nation-states in dealing with large swathes of people fleeing their home countries due to war, conflicts, natural disasters, and climate change has been of increasing interest for scholars and policymakers. The international refugee system and associated institutions have been criticized for failing to address the issue and lagging behind the developments producing further refugees. Countries, particularly the ‘developed’ ones, are responding to the problem by erecting further walls on their borders and around their policies, leading to the securitization of refugees bases mainly on economic arguments while most of the world’s refugees continue to live in ‘less developed’ parts of the world.

 Mental walls are also erected in front of refugees. In line with the rise of right-wing populism in Western and European countries, refugees are invariably politicized via anti-refugee discourses marked by the cultural difference they exemplify. Turkey’s open-door policy toward Syrian refugees since 2011 presents an exceptionally welcoming approach compared to the strict refugee regime of EU countries. Notwithstanding the dubious normative power of Europe and liberal humanitarianism, it stands for, most European countries reveal an unequivocal stance against accepting refugees from the South and the East. Whereas they have unconditionally opened their arms to Ukrainians, fleeing their country due to the Russian invasion, revealing a bitter double standard of the West when it comes to war and refugees.Our special issue entitled Climate Change and Migration strives to accomplish two broad objectives. First and foremost, it seeks to present an alarming and innovative perspective on climate change via case studies from all across the world. Second, we want to look at migration from the vantage point of global and regional dynamics that force people to migrate to ‘hopefully’ safer parts of the world at the risk to their lives, and we want to encourage international organizations and governments to find long-term solutions to this ever-changing process.

To fulfill these aims our on-topic commentaries set off with a case study from Kerela, the southernmost state in India. Irudaya Rajan and his colleagues evaluate the role of inter-state migrants in the socio-economic profile of Kerala and comment on the necessity to include them as a priority in the migration policy discussions, particularly in light of the state’s proneness to natural disasters. They conclude that because the region is prone to regular floods, landslides, and other natural disasters, it is long overdue for inter-state migrants to be integrated into society and state policy to avoid mass migration and abuse during such trying times.

Burak Güneş and Haydar Karaman examine how the UN Human Rights Council’s recent decision recognizing “The Human Right to a Safe, Clean, Healthy, and Sustainable Environment” prepares the way for a legal-political debate over climate-related issues. Turning their critical gaze to the case of Haiti, they analyze the consequences and significance of international law and politics on climate refugees as well as offer practical answers for persons who have been relocated as a result of environmental problems. They hypothesize that migration as an adaptation framework could be useful for policymakers in determining how voluntary migration can help reduce vulnerability and exposure to climate-related damages, based on their analysis of the relevance of international law and politics on climate refugees in the case of the Republic of Haiti. Their demand for nations to adopt legal frameworks and enforceable mechanisms to cope with this unavoidable threat is of paramount importance.

In our next commentary, Abdullah Ayaz discusses climate change as well as the more recent causes of migratory migrations from a global perspective. In particular, he examines the impact of externalization policies on migratory movements, which are predicted to gather steam as a result of the expanding diversity of push factors. He also highlights the roles and implementation of border restrictions, repatriation agreements, and other legal procedures aimed at making international protection and financial support programs more difficult for migrants. The author rightly calls for a more equitable reorganization of migration management at the international level due to the increased effect and frequency of migration. As a logical conclusion of his recommendations, Ayaz asks the international community to assume greater responsibility for migration-related events and focus on addressing the core causes of migration. To make international migration management more just, equitable, and humane, one may draw from this debate that it is necessary to focus on the primary causes for migration rather than aiming to drive migrants away through externalization policies.

The critical perspective that binds together all discussions in our special issue also marks Alexander Ugwukah’s timely commentary on the migration to and from Libya. The socio-economic ramifications of illegal migration to and from Libya are examined in this study in a brief yet perceptive manner. Its goal is to examine the underlying reasons and exacerbation of the development, its transformation into new kinds of slavery and a source of revenue for some criminal elements, the involvement of the EU, and how it impacts Nigerians and other nationals in Sub-Saharan Africa. Ugwukah concludes that the situation needs to be addressed from all angles: the source of the supply, the Libyan recipients and accomplices, and the final destination locations in Europe, which will either accept or reject the migrants.

In our final on-topic commentary Ömer Yılmaz examines Ankara’s ‘safe zones’ in Northern Syria, as well clarifying whether creating safe zones in response to the Syrian civil conflict and the subsequent humanitarian catastrophe was a choice or a requirement for Ankara in terms of irregular migration and border security. Yılmaz argues Turkey has declared multiple safe zones within Syria’s borders, using its right to self-defense under international law, to battle terrorist organizations that have taken advantage of the increasing vacuum in authority on Syrian land to put Turkish borders and nationals at danger. Recounting the critical turning points in the Syrian civil war, Yılmaz proposes that the safe zones serve three preemptive and prospective functions, (i) by providing a safe haven for the civilian population, (ii) by paving a step forward in the counter-terrorism campaign and attempts to stop irregular migration, and finally, (iii) by allowing Syrians to return to their homeland.

In our off-topic commentary, Zafer Meşe provides a timely overview of German-Turkish relations vis-à-vis the formation of the ‘traffic light’ coalition as a result of the national elections of September 26, 2021. Meşe examines future bilateral ties with the incoming German administration by comparing the Turkish-German bilateral route since the turn of the millennium to a symbolic roller coaster ride to explain the ups and downs in the domain of foreign and security policy. Meşe estimates that bilateral ties will most likely be dominated by European concerns in the next months and years and Turkey will promote a good European agenda while also considering its national interests.

Our special issue features 5 on-topic research articles and 2 off-topic ones providing in-depth analyses of the issues at stake. Mehmet Emin Binpınar and Çiğdem Tuğaç discuss the link between climate change and migration, as well as the potential repercussions in the context of climate security throughout the world and in Turkey. They conclude that in line with the fulfillment of human rights, international cooperation should assist the realization of the right to life, the right to enough food, water, appropriate health opportunities, education, the right to housing, and the right to self-realization.

Next, Yusuf Alpaydın examines the migration experiences of Meskhetian Turkic high school students to Turkey. Yusuf Alpaydın points to the fact that in today’s globe, there is a lot of migration between nations, which is both frequent and severe at times and these movements have an impact on the nations’ economic, health, and education systems, and it will be advantageous for educational decision-makers to conduct a comprehensive analysis of these populations’ requirements and develop solutions to their difficulties.

Ching-An Chang examines the socioeconomic makeup of Syrian refugees in Turkey and the opportunities it presents for better organizing refugee policy. The Syrian conflict, which has lasted more than ten years, is the worst humanitarian disaster since WWII. Turkey is home to over four million Syrians, the largest of any country. According to the author, there is still a long way to go before war refugees can return to their homeland and many of them have already formed a new life in the host nation; it is difficult for them to just abandon what they have achieved. More to the point, the destruction of their communities back home is another reason why people are hesitant to return, therefore the development of a long-term integration strategy for the host nations is unavoidable.

The destruction resulting from state violence and the concomitant ethical concerns are the main themes of Rabia Aamir’s study of the personal story of Ghada Karmi, an anglicized Arab woman who was forced to leave her birth and childhood home in Palestine more than eighty-three years ago. This conceptual paper examines how Karmi presents her right to return to the land of her birth, how she problematizes the ongoing marginalization, erasure, and Nakba of her land, both by external and internal factors, and how she states the environmental ethic of her place, all while understanding the need for social justice and decolonization as expressed in her memoir.

Sibel Yanık Aslan questions whether the inclusive link between migration and security has an impact on efforts to develop uniform migration policy and concludes that the formulation of an efficient immigration strategy is hampered by decisions made under the impact of securitization. When migration is regulated only for security reasons, Yanık Aslan argues, the EU’s basic ideals are jeopardized.

In the penultimate article, Hatice Karahan and Nigar Tuğsuz assess the link between the socioeconomic rights of headscarved women in Turkey and official attitudes about the headscarf. Their findings suggest that real variety and integrity in the labor market cannot be attained in Turkey unless political and economic forces firmly promote equitable treatment for women professionals who choose to follow the Islamic dress code.

In the final article, Murat Ülgül and İsmail Köse analyze the U.S.’ Black Sea policies using Jentleson’s framework, dubbed as 4Ps, referring to power, peace, prosperity, and principles. They argue that the ‘unilateral moment’ gave American leaders the impression that they could easily achieve all of their goals however, as they point out, in various places, including the South China Sea, the Middle East, and the Black Sea region, power-seeking practices frequently clashed with the interests of other regional powers, resulting in instability.

This issue of Insight Turkey aims to present the current intertwined situation of climate change and migration by providing its readers with a general framework of the global natural challenges facing migrants and refugees and highlighting different migration and refugee policies from a selection of cases. We hope that this issue will pave the way for future research into the relationship between climate change and migration and the necessary policies that need to be undertaken in this regard.

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