THE INTERNATIONAL Organisation for Migration (IOM) has signed a memorandum of understanding with Papua New Guinea to help the nation deal with people compelled to move due to climate change.

Rising sea levels in Pacific nations such as Kiribati and Tuvalu has led some individuals to claim refugee status on the basis of a changing climate.

At present, migrants moving due to climate change cannot claim refugee status, but the IOM has acknowledged that the number of people doing so is likely to rise.

Climate driven migration and resettlement is emerging as a catalyst of tension and conflict with host communities, while the consequences of climate change are becoming evident in Papua New Guinea.

As a result, the IOM has been working closely with the PNG Office of Climate Change and Development and partners in developing policies to link disaster risk reduction to climate change adaptation programs.

The PNG authorities are also developing policies on the protection of the rights of the internally displaced with IOM support.

A memorandum of understanding signed between the two agencies in July aims to give visibility to environmental migrants and their specific needs and to address the interactions between climate change and its physical, social and economic impacts on society.

IOM Papua New Guinea chief of mission George Gigauri said it was critical to understand climate change as a new driver of migration when addressing the challenges faced by vulnerable communities in PNG.

“We must work together to combine disaster risk reduction and climate change adaptation efforts to bring about durable solutions to environmental migrants,” he said.

“This agreement marks an important milestone in our joint strategic activities, focusing on the human dimension of climate change.”