This panel problematises and critiques the notion of ‘displacement’ in the context of disasters and climate change. While the threat posed by climate change is real, its manifestations are not as straightforward as we might think. For instance, the idea that rising sea levels will displace millions of people and create ‘climate refugees’ is a popular trope, but it has little evidential grounding. Within the Pacific, multiple and diverse types of mobility, as well as immobility, have been used as coping strategies over centuries.
Resettlement is a life-saving tool. It is a way that countries, like Australia, help refugees and their families to find safety. In their resettlement country, refugees can build a new life and create a new home, while enjoying a secure and long-lasting legal status.
Five years ago, as many as 8,000 Rohingya refugees and Bangladeshi migrants were left stranded at sea after people smugglers abandoned their boats and neighbouring countries refused to allow them to come ashore. As the world comes to grips with the COVID-19 pandemic, crowded boats in the Bay of Bengal are once more forcing the region to confront the plight of Rohingya refugees seeking safety by sea.
What is changing in the so-called ‘new normal’, and what does it mean for the legal landscape facing refugees, people seeking asylum and other forced migrants? How are human-rights-based laws designed to protect people holding up under the pressure of a global public health crisis? Once the virus subsides, how do we ensure that regressive laws are not ‘baked in’ and that the social and economic impacts of the pandemic on the most vulnerable people are addressed? Scientia Professor Jane McAdam and Assistant Secretary-General Gillian Triggs discuss the key issues.