THE Federal Government should pour more money into foreign aid to prevent a potential flow of refugees getting on boats to flee natural disasters, a leading law academic has said.
Queensland University of Technology Faculty of Law senior lecturer Dr Rowena Maguire made the comments ahead of a symposium on refugees in the Asia Pacific next month.
Dr Maguire said there were no international laws protecting refugees fleeing the effects of natural disasters or climate change, such as Typhoon Haiyan which hit The Philippines.
She said such asylum seekers were called "internally displaced" people, and were almost refugees in their own country, but were afforded no protections if they chose to leave.
Dr Maguire said while places like Australia had insurance and governments to help protect and recover from natural disasters, many other countries did not.
"When people are displaced, they have no land rights, and when not able to move back to their homes their biggest asset - their home - is worthless," she said.
"They lose their community, their support networks, their income and their children's education can be disrupted.
"That's when they become refugees of the future. People in desperate situations are willing to take risks such as getting on boats."
She said to help stop the flow of "refugees of the future" Australia should be providing more aid to the Asia Pacific region to help with disaster risk reduction and to adjust to climate change.
Rather than cutting foreign aid by billions of dollars, Dr Maguire said it was in Australia's interest to be increasing aid to "help improve stability and relations in the region".
"It's in the region's best interests to work together to prevent the long-term effects of internal displacement, which leads people to become refugees," she said.
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