Climate change worsens the migration crisis in Latin America and the Caribbean

December 07, 2023

An event at the Latin American and Caribbean pavilion at COP28, organized by CAF, analyzed how the impacts of global warming are increasing forced migratory flows in areas such as Darién, and proposed solutions to prevent them from amplifying inequality and poverty.

Climate change worsens the migration crisis in Latin America

More and more Latin Americans and Caribbeans migrate due to natural disasters, environmental degradation and the adverse impacts of climate change. In 2021 alone, more than 1.6 million new disaster displacements were recorded in the Americas. By 2050, the most pessimistic scenarios estimate that Latin America will have 17 million climate migrants.

In parallel, between 1998 and 2020, climate and geophysical phenomena caused 312,000 deaths and directly affected more than 277 million people in Latin America and the Caribbean, according to the WMO.

Against this backdrop, an event at the Latin American and Caribbean pavilion at COP28 explored new measures to adapt to climate change and migration policies to ensure that migratory flows in the region are orderly, safe and contribute to economic growth.

The photographer and journalist Federico Ríos participated in the event, whose work captures the faces of migrants from Darién. "Migrations are motivated by climate change, economies, religion, ethnic persecutions, political situations... Everyone is driven to cross this stretch of jungle in search of conditions that are minimal: a roof, a plate of food, a educational opportunity for their children.

Ríos explained that before 2021, the Darién had been used as a migratory route by approximately 10,000 migrants per year and, by the end of 2023, it is close to 500,000. “It's a dramatic progression.”

“The evidence tells us that so far the majority of climate mobility is internal, it takes place within countries. Particularly from rural areas to urban areas, and that is where cities actually play a fundamental role in receiving migrants," said Pablo Escribano, migration and climate specialist at the IOM.

The experts agreed that it is essential to prevent forced migration and ensure regular migration routes for those who have to leave their communities. For Elkin Velasquez, regional representative of UN Habitat in Latin America and the Caribbean, to achieve this, it is necessary to work from the territory and from the cities through which the flow of emigrants passes or to which migrants arrive.

Some of the actions that Latin American and Caribbean countries can take to address the relationship between migration and climate change include strengthening adaptation measures, such as building resilient infrastructure, improving the management of natural resources and promotion of sustainable agricultural practices. Countries can also develop migration policies that guarantee access to basic rights and services, such as education, health, and protection against violence and discrimination.

Furthermore, international cooperation is key to developing win-win migration solutions, including coordination of migration policies, assistance to countries of origin and support for migrants.