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Migrants and Refugees

Migrants are often moving through and putting up informal shelter in forests, bushlands and other wildlands that are temporarily at high wildfire risk. Camp fires for cooking and warming are essential for survival. Many migrants have limited experience in handling and controlling open fires, which at times of high seasonal fire risk may easily get out of control and cause significant environmental damages. Vice-versa, wildfires may affect migrants, refugees and asylum seekers. During the dry season a wildfire may have serious consequences on security and health of migrants. It is difficult to communicate with migrants in temporary informal camps.

Each year, UNICEF Germany has awarded the “UNICEF Photo of the Year Award” to photos and photo series that best depict the personality and living conditions of children worldwide in an outstanding manner. One of the winners 2020: Angelos Tzortzinis. It was a catastrophe within a catastrophe: On September 9, 2020, the refugee camp Moria on the Greek island of Lesbos burned to the ground leaving 13,000 people, including 4,000 children, without shelter. They had fled the war in Syria, the violence in Afghanistan, the fear in Iraq. They endured appalling living conditions, many of them for years. The camp was hopelessly overcrowded, diseases ran rampant, food and clean water were regularly in short supply. And then came the flames. With the fire rapidly spreading, the only option left for the refugees was to grab whatever they can and run. Among the many pictures of this inferno, the most impressive images of the children’s suffering were taken by Greek photographer Angelos Tzortzinis. Images of children with breathing masks, walking hand in hand through clouds of smoke. Images of moments of shock and collapse, of horror and crying.

Migrants and Disaster Risk Reduction – Practices for Inclusion

Migrants, asylum seekers and refugees constitute a significant and growing proportion of the general population of countries in Europe. Globally, more than 60 million people — refugees and internally displaced persons — are forcibly displaced by conflict, violence, disasters and human rights violations. This is the highest level of forced displacement since World War II. The Council of Europe through its European and Mediterranean Major Hazards Agreement (EUR-OPA) has encouraged the protection of the rights of migrants, refugees and displaced people for years and supported their integration by identifying and sharing good practices as well encouraging access to better living conditions.

The following publication builds upon the knowledge and experiences gathered throughout this EUR-OPA programme as well as on the Migrants In Countries In Crisis (MICIC) Initiative, in collaboration with the International Organization for Migration (IOM), and Overseas Development Institute (ODI). It presents existing practices and lessons learned on the integration of migrants into decision making, policy-setting and implementation of disaster risk reduction initiatives. In line with the people-centred approach emphasized in the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction 2015-2030, it aims to support practitioners and policy makers in developing policies and operational activities integrating more effectively migrants in DRR efforts.

The second publication (EUR-OPA) “Major Hazards, Migrants, Asylum Seekers and Refugees: Their inclusion in Disaster Preparedness and Management” was adopted at EUR-OPA’s 74th meeting of the Committee of Permanent Correspondents and the Directors of Specialised Centres (Joint Meeting) (3-4 November 2020, Strasbourg, France).

The Internal Displacement Monitoring Center provides high-quality data, analysis and expertise on internal displacement with the aim of informing policy and operational decisions that can reduce the risk of future displacement and improve the lives of internally displaced people (IDP) worldwide. A Briefing Paper, published in March 2021, is a first step towards bridging the knowledge gap on how men, women and children with disabilities are disproportionately affected in disaster settings. Whether it is triggered by cyclones, wildfires, floods or other hazards, disaster displacement is a growing global phenomenon, whose effects are especially severe for people with disabilities. Discrimination and barriers in access to services often amplify the challenges and risks internally:

Media Reports

In the charred Greek landscape close to the border with Turkey, a group of blackened corpses lay amid the ashes of what was once a lush forest that offered migrants the perfect cover to cross into the European Union. Two of the dead found this week were children. A group of 18 migrants were found on 22 August 2023 near the village of Avantas in northeastern Greece where a fierce wildfire swept with devastating speed, one of hundreds across the country fueled by high temperatures and whipped up by gale force winds. A 19th body was found on 24 August 2023 in another area of the forest.

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