Legal and Practical Measures for Environmental Migrants
Sofia O’Connor*, Carl Bruch*,, and Miko Maekawa**
*Environmental Law Institute
1730 M Street NW, Suite 700, Washington, D.C. 20036, USA
**The Ocean Policy Research Institute, Sasakawa Peace Foundation, Tokyo, Japan
Recent years have seen dramatic growth in people migrating due to environmental shocks and changes. Many of these shocks and changes are climate-related. Environmental migration can occur due to sudden-onset events, such as hurricanes, floods, and heatwaves and slow-onset events, such as coastal erosion, sea level rise, and droughts. Migrants may move to temporary or permanent new housing, either locally or abroad, depending on the options available to them. They may return; many do not. Currently, there are few legal mechanisms that allow environmentally displaced persons to move or stay in new safe locations. Moreover, social and economic support that would allow them to adapt to their new surroundings is similarly scarce. As climatic events displace an increasing number of people, the search for legal mechanisms to protect and support environmental migrants has intensified, as has the search for complementary tools that ease the migrants’ transition in their countries of destination. While there is no international agreement that protects environmental migrants, there are legal tools and practical policy measures that countries can take on their own or in collaboration with others to alleviate struggles of environmental migrants. This article reviews a number of the available legal and policy measures. It starts with a brief review of the dynamics and scope of environmental migration. It then surveys legal options for managing environmental migrants, considering both the prospects for a comprehensive legal approach and the options for a toolbox approach. The article then turns to policy approaches for supporting livelihoods of environmental migrants, before taking a broad view of policy options.
-  International Organization for Migration, “Climate Change and the Environment,” https://www.iom.int/complex-nexus [accessed May 31, 2019]
-  C. Bruch, S. Karimi, J. Manatunge, and M. Nakayama, “Barriers to Long-Term Return after the Great East Japan Earthquake: Lessons from Hirono Town,” J. of Asian Development, Vol.3, No.1, pp. 23-39, 2017.
-  Immigration New Zealand, “Pacific Access Category Resident Visa,” https://www.immigration.govt.nz/new-zealand-visas/apply-for-a-visa/about-visa/pacific-access-category-resident-visa [accessed August 14, 2019]
-  Government Offices of Sweden, “Aliens Act (2005:716),” https://www.government.se/49cf71/contentassets/784b3d7be3a54a0185f284bbb2683055/aliens-act-2005_716.pdf [accessed May 31, 2019]
-  A. Lopez, “The Protection of Environmentally-Displaced Persons in International Law,” Environmental Law, Vol.37, No.2, pp. 365-409, 2007.
-  B. Havard, “Seeking Protection: Recognition of Environmentally Displaced Persons under International Human Rights Law,” Villanova Environmental Law J., Vol.18, No.1, pp. 65-82, 2007.
-  K. K. Moberg, “Extending Refugee Definitions to Cover Environmentally Displaced Persons Displaces Necessary Protection,” Iowa Law Review, Vol.94, pp. 1107-1137, 2009.
-  M. Hynie, P. Nayak, T. Gomes, and I. Abdillah, “Environmental Displacement and Environmental Migration: Blurred Boundaries Require Integrated Policies,” RRN/CRS Policy Brief, 2016, https://refugeeresearch.net/wp-content/uploads/2017/02/hynie_feb%e2%80%9917.pdf [accessed November 15, 2019]
-  Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre, “Global Internal Displacement Database: Disaster-Related New Displacements by Hazard Category,” http://www.internal-displacement.org/database/displacement-data [accessed May 31, 2019].
-  Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre, “Global Report on Internal Displacement 2018,” http://www.internal-displacement.org/sites/default/files/publications/documents/201805-final-GRID-2018_0.pdf [accessed May 31, 2019]
-  International Organization for Migration, “Migration and Climate Change,” https://www.iom.int/migration-and-climate-change [accessed May 31, 2019]
-  United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, “Climate Change and Disaster Displacement,” 2015, http://www.unhcr.org/en-us/climate-change-and-disasters.html [accessed May 31, 2019]
-  A. Plyer, “Facts for Features: Katrina Impact,” The Data Center, 2016, http://www.datacenterresearch.org/data-resources/katrina/facts-for-impact/ [accessed May 31, 2019]
-  United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, “Inside Somalia, Draught Displacement Growing,” 2017, http://www.unhcr.org/en-us/news/briefing/2017/2/58ac0a774/inside-somalia-drought-displacement-growing.html [accessed May 31, 2019]
-  The Nansen Initiative, “Agenda for the Protection of Cross-border Displaced Persons in the Context of Disasters and Climate Change,” 2015, https://www.nanseninitiative.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/10/Agenda-Final-Draft.pdf [accessed May 31, 2019]
-  “Notre Dame Global Adaptation Index,” http://index.gain.org/ [accessed May 31, 2019]
-  Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre, “Global Estimates 2015: People Displaced by Disasters,” 2015, http://www.internal-displacement.org/assets/library/Media/201507-globalEstimates-2015/20150713-global-estimates-2015-en-v1.pdf [accessed May 31, 2019]
-  R. Kim, A. Costello, and D. Campbell-Lendrum, “Climate Change and Health in Pacific Island States,” Bulletin of the World Health Organization, Vol.93, p. 819, 2015, http://www.who.int/bulletin/volumes/93/12/15-166199/en/ [accessed May 31, 2019]
-  United Nations University Institute for Environment and Human Security, “Climate Change and Migration in the Pacific: Links, Attitudes, and Future Scenarios in Nauru, Tuvalu, and Kiribati,” 2015, https://i.unu.edu/media/ehs.unu.edu/news/11747/RZ_Pacific_EHS_ESCAP_151201.pdf [accessed May 31, 2019]
-  J. L. Jackson, “Environmental Refugees: A Yardstick of Habitability,” Worldwatch Paper, No.86, Worldwatch Institute, 1988.
-  A. H. Westing, “Environmental Refugees: A Growing Category of Displaced Persons,” Environmental Conservation, Vol.19, No.3, pp. 201-207, 1992.
-  N. Myers, “Environmental Refugees in a Globally Warmed World,” BioScience, Vol.43, No.11, pp. 752-761, 1993.
-  United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, “Guiding Principles on Internal Displacement,” 2001, http://www.unhcr.org/en-us/protection/idps/43ce1cff2/guiding-principles-internal-displacement.html [accessed May 31, 2019]
-  Global Compact for Migration, “Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration,” https://refugeesmigrants.un.org/sites/default/files/180713_agreed_outcome_global_compact_for_migration.pdf [accessed May 31, 2019]
-  United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, “Convention and Protocol Relating to the Status of Refugees,” 1951, http://www.unhcr.org/en-us/3b66c2aa10 [accessed May 31, 2019]
-  United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, “Advisory Opinion on the Extraterritorial Application of Non-Refoulement Obligations under the 1951 Convention relating to the Status of Refugees and its 1967 Protocol,” http://www.unhcr.org/4d9486929.pdf [accessed May 31, 2019]
-  United Nations General Assembly, “New York Declaration for Refugees and Migrants,” 2016, http://www.unhcr.org/en-us/57e39d987 [accessed May 31, 2019]
-  United Nations, “Global Compact for Migration,” 2018, https://refugeesmigrants.un.org/migration-compact [accessed May 31, 2019]
-  United Nations General Assembly, “Intergovernmental Conference to Adopt the Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration – Summary of Official Meetings,” http://www.un.org/en/conf/migration/assets/pdf/Summary-of-official-meeting-GCM-10-Dec-18.pdf [accessed May 31, 2019]
-  United Nations General Assembly, “Outcome Document of the Intergovernmental Conference to Adopt the Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration,” December 10, 2018, http://undocs.org/en/A/CONF.231/l.1 [accessed May 31, 2019]
-  W. Kälin and N. Schrepfer, “Protecting People Crossing Borders in the Context of Climate Change: Normative Gaps and Possible Approaches,” 2012, http://www.unhcr.org/4f33f1729.pdf [accessed May 31, 2019]
-  F. De Châtel, “The Role of Drought and Climate Change in the Syrian Uprising: Untangling the Triggers of the Revolution,” Middle Eastern Studies, Vol.50, No.4, pp. 521-535, 2014.
-  M. Nakayama, N. Yoshioka, H. Fujibayashi, and C. Bruch, “Factors Affecting Livelihood Re-Establishment of Climate Change Induced Transboundary Displaced Persons,” Int. J. of Social Science Studies, Vol.4, No.9, pp. 40-48, 2016.
-  Immigration New Zealand, “Recognized Seasonal Employer Limited Visa,” https://www.immigration.govt.nz/new-zealand-visas/apply-for-a-visa/about-visa/recognised-seasonal-employer-limited-visa [accessed May 31, 2019]
-  Joint Centenary Declaration of the Principles of the Relationship Between the Cook Islands and New Zealand, https://www.mfat.govt.nz/assets/_securedfiles/Pacific/Cook-Islands-2001-Joint-Centenary-Declaration-signed.pdf [accessed May 31, 2019]
-  Office of Insular Affairs, U.S. Department of the Interior, “Compact of Free Association Act of 1985, U.S. Public Law 99-239,” https://www.doi.gov/oia/about/compact [accessed May 31, 2019]
-  Government Offices of Sweden, “Proposal to Temporarily Restrict the Possibility of Being Granted a Residence Permit in Sweden,” https://www.government.se/press-releases/2016/05/proposal-to-temporarily-restrict-the-possibility-of-being-granted-a-residence-permit-in-sweden/ [accessed May 31, 2019]
-  Government Offices of Sweden, “Cross-Party Commission of Inquiry to Examine Migration Policy,” https://www.government.se/articles/2019/07/cross-party-commission-of-inquiry-to-examine-migration-policy/ [accessed August 14, 2019]
-  Ministry of the Interior, Finland, “Aliens Act (301/2004, amendments up to 1152/2010 included),” https://www.finlex.fi/fi/laki/kaannokset/2004/en20040301_20101152.pdf [accessed May 31, 2019]
-  Finnish Immigration Service, “Humanitarian Protection No Longer Granted from 16 May 2016 – Other Grounds Needed for Extended Permit,” https://migri.fi/en/artikkeli/-/asset_publisher/humanitaarista-suojelua-ei-myonneta-enaa-16-5-2016-alkaen-jatkoluvalle-oltava-muu-peruste [accessed May 31, 2019]
-  U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service, “United States Immigration and Nationality Act,” 8 U.S.C. sec. 1254a, https://www.uscis.gov/ilink/docView/SLB/HTML/SLB/act.html [accessed May 31, 2019]
-  Australian Government, Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, “Development Assistance in the Pacific,” http://dfat.gov.au/geo/pacific/development-assistance/Pages/development-assistance-in-the-pacific.aspx [accessed May 31, 2019]
-  S. N. McClain, J. Seru, and H. Lajar, “Migration, Transition, and Livelihoods: A Comparative Analysis of Marshallese Pre- and Post-Migration to the United States,” J. Disaster Res., Vol.14, No.9, pp. 1262-1266, 2019.
-  S. Drinkall, J. Leung, C. Bruch, K. Micky, and S. Wells, “Migration with Dignity: A Case Study on the Livelihood Transition of Micronesians to Portland and Salem, Oregon,” J. Disaster Res., Vol.14, No.9, pp. 1267-1276, 2019.
-  L. Caramel, “Besieged by the Rising Tides of Climate Change, Kiribati Buys Land in Fiji,” The Guardian, July 30, 2014, https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2014/jul/01/kiribati-climate-change-fiji-vanua-levu [accessed May 31, 2019]
-  H. Fujibayashi and M. Nakayama, “An Option to Avoid the Sudden Mass Influx of Migrants Resulting from Worldwide Environmental Threats,” Int. J. of Social Science Studies, Vol.5, No.6, pp. 1-8, 2017.
-  C. Paxson and C. E. Rouse, “Returning to New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina,” American Economic Review, Vol.98, No.2, pp. 38-42, 2008.
-  M. Nakayama, H. Fujibayashi, and N. Yoshioka, “Applying Past Lessons Learned to the Relocation of Climate Change Induced Transboundary Displaced Persons,” Int. J. of Social Science Research, Vol.4, No.2, pp. 66-77, 2016.
-  The World Bank, “New Approaches Needed to Increase Employment in Pacific Island Countries: World Bank,” 2014, http://www.worldbank.org/en/news/press-release/2014/05/09/new-approaches-needed-to-increase-employment-in-pacific-island-countries [accessed May 31, 2019]
-  International Labour Organization, “Labour Migration in Kiribati,” http://www.ilo.org/suva/areas-of-work/WCMS_407373/lang–en/index.htm [accessed May 31, 2019]
-  BBC, “Migrant Child Brides Put Europe in a Spin,” September 30, 2016, https://www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-37518289 [accessed May 31, 2019]
This article is published under a Creative Commons Attribution-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.