“Migrants from Bosnia and Herzegovina are massively moving towards Croatia! UN arbitrated, countries cannot return ‘climate migrants!”, states the title of an article published in the Croatian online news outlet Paraf.hr. The article makes a connection between the UN’s ruling that governments cannot return migrants to domicile countries where their lives are threatened by climate change, and migrants who are now in Bosnia and Herzegovina. A claim is made that these migrants will now ‘massively’ enter Croatia, and respectively into the European Union. This statement is false as the UN’s decision on climate refugees is in no way connected to the migrants waiting to cross the border between Bosnia and Herzegovina and Croatia.
The thesis which we are examining was published in Croatian online news outlet Paraf.hr. On the official Facebook page it has over 15.000 followers. Contrary to other Croatian news platforms, such as Index.hr or 24hours which have over 500 thousand followers, Paraf is not that influential. Still, an article with such a clickbait potential in a title obviously has an aim to be shared over social media. Also, author of the article is anonymous, which also causes additional doubt about the authenticity of the news outlet itself. As for the credibility of their publishing, we contacted the biggest Croatian factchecking portal Faktograf, in order to find out the amount of incorrect information Paraf.hr had previously published. In 2020 Faktograf had labelled two of Paraf’s articles as disinformation (Claim that an Immigrant’s Child Threatens Europeans with Slaughter is False , and A Well-known Journalist is Deceitfully Portrayed as an Immigrant who had Moved to Ireland Because of Corruption)
The title of the article in question is certainly a piece of disinformation because the migrants that are currently in Bosnia and Herzegovina can by no means be connected with the climate migrants. The thesis has been derived from a CNN story about the decision of United Nations on climate refugees. While CNN story focuses only on the UN ruling on climate refugees and doesn’t make any connection with the current migrations from Middle East to the Western Europe, Paraf.hr draws the following conclusion: “Many political commentators consider this an important decision as it can spark a flood of legal requests of displaced persons around the world. This particularly is a threat to Croatia in whose neighbourhood tens of thousands of migrants are waiting for spring and new attempt of crossing the border, in order to cross to Western Europe.” Of course, not one single “political commentator” is mentioned or quoted by name.
Who are the migrants in Bosnia and Herzegovina
Bosnia and Herzegovina became in mid-2018 the new transit route for migrants who are on their way to Western Europe. According to the European Parliament briefing (November 2019), there were about eight thousand migrants from southern Asia and the Middle East. All of them are migrants who had made their way all the way to the border with Croatia, trying to make their way further into the European Union. Since the legal crossing of the border is not possible, thousands of migrants have been settled in camps near the border of Bosnia and Herzegovina with Croatia. According to the 2018 UN Report on migrant and refugees situation in Bosnia and Herzegovina, the number of migrants in that region has been growing since 2017. The countries of origin of those migrants are mainly: Syria, Libya, Palestine, Afghanistan, Iran, Algeria, and Iraq.
Who are the climate refugees according to the UN decision?
Climate refugees, as defined by the UN and its agency for refugees (UNHCR) are people who are forced to leave their country because of sudden or gradual ecological changes linked to global climate change like: raise of the sea level, extreme weather changes, drought, lack of water, and similar. Because of such conditions, according to the UN, forcing refugees to return into countries in which the climate crisis is directly threatening their lives, constitutes the violation of their human rights.
Kiribati as the trigger for UN decision
According to the CNN story, the reason for passing such a decision is the case of Ioanea Teitiotea, a man who requested protection of New Zealand after his life was in jeopardy because of climate changes in his country Kiribati. Although his request was first rejected, the fear of consequences of the climate changes was the trigger for this UN’s ruling.
Namely, because of significant raise of the sea level, which has been estimated to almost three millimetars per year since 1993, Kiribati has become very endangered. According to the Iberdola statistics this territory is only two meters above the sea level. In 1999 two islands that are part of Kiribati remained submerged. Also, the storms created a number of other problems – the sea waters hitting the land affecting the drinking water, flooding houses, and destroying crops. If this situation continues, the inhabitants of Kiribati will have the right to request the status of climate refugees, because all criteria of the UN decision are present – influence of the climate changes, lack of water and food, which brings the population in danger, and violates their basic human rights.
How can the decision on climate refugees influence the current situation?
The very title of Paraf’s article creates the wrong impression that this decision will enable the migrants and refugees from Bosnia and Herzegovina to settle easier in Croatia. That is incorrect because the status of climate refugees can only be granted to persons whose lives are directly threatened by extreme climate changes in their countries, which automatically jeopardies their right to life. Migrations caused by wars in their respective countries, although also life threatening, do not constitute a prerequisite for UN definition of climate refugees.
This article has also been checked by Croatian fact-checking website Faktograf, and according to their analysis, it has also been established that it is a false claim, because lives of refugees coming from the Middle East are not endangered by climate change.
Indeed, there is no connection between the UN’s decision on climate refugees and the wave of migrations from Bosnia and Herzegovina to Croatia, and via Croatia to the Western Europe. Therefore, the thesis from the title of the article is not only false, but is an example of a classical clickbait, which misleads readers.
Research | Article: Neva Zganec, Nina Matjasec
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