By Kadeem Joseph
A new report is recommending several changes in three major government agencies that will ultimately make it easier to collect information on climate change and disasters potentially influencing the movement of people.
The assessments were produced by the International Organisation for Migration (IOM) in the six independent member States of the Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS), including Antigua and Barbuda, between 2020 and 2021, as part of a project entitled “Regional Dialogue to Address Human Mobility and Climate Change Adaptation in the Eastern Caribbean.”
The effort received funding from the German Federal Foreign Office, in partnership with the IOM Dominica Country Office and IOM’s Global Migration Data Analysis Centre (GMDAC).
The reports were also completed in close collaboration with the OECS Commission.
They come as regional leaders continue to lament the impacts of climate change on small island developing states, with Prime Minister Gaston Browne, as recently as last Monday, calling on the international community to increase its support for Small Island Developing States (SIDS) amid increased pressures brought on by climate change.
According to the report specific to Antigua and Barbuda, while data on the topic is still limited, the development of country-specific, disaggregated, and comprehensive data on climate- and disaster-related human mobility in the twin island state could be made possible through “coordination, collaboration, and proactive actions among national agencies and departments, especially the Department of Immigration, the Statistics Division and the National Office of Disaster Services (NODS).
Among the recommendations for the Immigration Department are revisions of the Customs Declaration form to include weather conditions and disasters among the options for “purpose of visit.”
The department is also being advised to include sex (gender) arriving and departing in the information collected along with the date of birth, country of citizenship and address of residence of the individual, which the report suggests would help to determine the housing needs of these people, along with shelter management and healthcare delivery.
“The proposal is also for the Department of Immigration (depending on the availability of resources or funding) to partner with the Statistics Division to develop a comprehensive database of all residents. This database would serve as an important reference to effectively track movements between countries,” the report added.
The study also suggests that the statistics division should include questions about environmental and climate risks and migration in the questionnaire, including human mobility categories, such as internal and cross-border migration, displacement, relocation, as well as other forms of movement, amongst several other recommendations.
Meanwhile, amongst the specific recommendations for the NODS is the development of “a common national database for disaster data from which the information compiled and kept in the format of reports could be managed and disseminated.”
The authors of the study believe that a common repository could make provision to allow for the validation of data collected and also present data on the human mobility dimensions of disasters in Antigua and Barbuda.
Such data has become even more important with Antigua and Barbuda opening its doors to possible migration from St Vincent and the Grenadines which was battered by the eruption of the La Soufriere volcano between March and April of 2021, and the threat of more severe natural disasters like hurricanes hitting the region.
The full report can be found on https://publications.iom.int/books/migration-environment-disaster-and-climate-change-data-eastern-caribbean-antigua-and-barbuda.