Tuesday 23 Oct 2018 | 19:53 | SYDNEY

Australia must prepare for environmental migrants, says Non-Resident Lowy Institute Fellow

In a new Lowy Institute Analysis Khalid Koser, a Non-Resident Fellow at the Lowy Institute for International Policy, argues that Australia needs to develop a national policy framework on environmental migration.

'Environmental change in the Pacific will see many more migrants from the region arrive in Australia during the next decade', said Dr Koser.

'A relatively modest sea-level rise may pose a threat to the very existence of Tuvalu and Kiribati, while natural disasters are increasing in frequency and intensity in Papua New Guinea, Fiji, Samoa and Vanuatu', he stressed.

Dr Koser argues that some of this can be managed by supporting adaptation to environmental change in affected countries.  But, however effective these adaptation measures prove, some migration to Australia from the Pacific Island countries as a result of environmental change is still likely to occur.

'Australia needs to plan for this ahead of time in order to maximise the benefits, but also minimise the costs, including any increase in irregular migration', said Dr Koser.

According to Dr Koser, the way to do this is to develop a national policy framework to deal with the challenge that environmental migrants pose.  Such a policy would have three key elements: continuing support for multilateral initiatives on environmental migration; capacity-building in origin and transit countries; and national legislation for environmental migrants arriving in Australia that leverages existing labour migration programs and targets a limited number of countries.

Australia: Stephanie Dunstan - Sydney +61 2 8238 9040 (work)/sdunstan@lowyinstitute.org
Switzerland: Dr Khalid Koser – Geneva +41 79 772 1923/ k.koser@gcsp.ch