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Climate summit discusses provisions for influx of foreign nationals - 4 June 2008

Johannesburg – As the pressures on food and water security increase as a result of the impacts of climate change, provision needs to be made for the influx of people from other countries into South Africa.

This is one of the issues discussed by the two-day Climate Change Summit, which kicked off on Monday, hosted by the City of Johannesburg in partnership with the South African Local Government Association (SALGA).

The summit aims to engage local municipalities with delegates from around the world on climate change for the first time.

“One of the actions taken by the city to deal with the influx [people from other countries] is the establishment of a migrant helpdesk to provide legal migrants and asylum seekers with information on basic services such as housing, education and healthcare in the city,” SALGA Chairperson and Executive Mayor of Johannesburg, Councillor Amos Masondo told the summit at the Nasrec exhibition centre.

“This is to ensure the welfare of [people from other countries] and part of adopting a progressive approach with regards to ensuring that migrants feel that they are part of this inclusive cit,” he said.

The theme for the summit is “All hands on deck: towards a low carbon economy," which ties in with the World Environment Day theme for this year “Kick the habit! Towards a low carbon economy.”

Forced migration is also one of the issues discussed. For this the summit will look into the:

· The role of cities as magnets for people from other countries given the context of climate change

· The vulnerability of people from other countries in adopted cities

· Impacts of climate change and movement of people from rural areas into cities

· Measures to integrate people from other countries and tackle the recent violence

Having recently celebrated Africa Day and with the 10th Africa Day Conference having a major focus on environmental politics, the issue of the link between the way climate change will impact on Africa and the political implications thereof was a burning one.

The attacks on people from other countries in South Africa has prompted even further need for the urgency of this special session to look at climate change and forced migration.

People migrate to other countries for a number of reasons, not only because of political instability in their home countries.

Food security is one such reason, often brought about by climate change factors such as famine, floods and natural disasters.

In 1990 the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) noted that the greatest single impact of climate change might be on human migration.

“It is important that South African cities and government are equipped and have strategies in place to be able to manage the influx of [people from other countries],” Mayor Masondo added.

The summit will focus on issues of migration and the impact of the 2010 World Cup on the environment and sanitation.

Most of South Africa's 283 municipalities will take the opportunity to discuss policy and strategy solutions on this increasingly hot topic.

By Bathandwa Mbola on BuaNews