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The European Union is facing a dramatic influx of “eco-immigrants”—those who leave nations that are suffering drought, food shortages and other effects of climate change, to illegally find work in Europe—says a report by the EU’s foreign policy chief, Javier Solana, and external relations commissioner Benita Ferrero-Waldner.
To prepare for increased immigration, the document suggests boosting the EU’s military in response to the “serious security risks” thought to soon arise due to climate change. The report estimates “there will be millions of environmental migrants by 2020.”
“Europe must expect substantially increased migratory pressure,” the report states. “Populations that already suffer from poor health conditions, unemployment or social exclusion are rendered vulnerable to the effects of climate change, which could amplify or trigger migration within and between nations.”
The document also raises concern that more frequent drought, low crop yields, and flooding could lead to increased unrest in the Middle East and Africa.
Individual nations have already been battling the problem of illegal immigration—especially Spain.
Using canoes, small boats and inflatable mattresses, migrants from North Africa attempt a treacherous 12-day journey to reach the Spanish-controlled Canary Islands. Others try to reach Spain’s enclave on the Strait of Gibraltar, Ceuta, or navigate the Strait to reach the Spanish coast.
In 2006, over 31,000 Africans reached the Canary Islands and an estimated 6,000 disappeared or died, according to a UN report (NY Times). However, it is nearly impossible to determine total deaths, because the number who attempt the voyage is unknown.
Waters along the northwest African coast have been dramatically overfished, leaving families that have fished for generations unable to support themselves. Many sell all their belongings and board canoes to Spain—hoping to find work and new lives.
A Spanish human rights group reported that in 2007 there were 921 confirmed deaths among those attempting to illegally enter Spain. Since the beginning of 2008, nearly 2,100 have arrived on the Spanish coastline, mainly from North Africa (El Mundo).