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Climate Change and International Migration

Climate Change and International Migration

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Published by Kayly
Background paper released by the German Marshall Fund's Transatlantic Study Team on Climate-induced Migration.

Summary: Policymakers in potential destination countries for international migrants have been slow to identify possible responses to manage environmentally induced migration that take these complex interconnections into account. Humanitarian admissions are generally limited to refugees and asylum seekers. Most environmental migrants, forced to flee because of loss of livelihood or habitat and not because of persecutory policies, will be unlikely to meet the legal definition of a refugee. In the absence of legal opportunities to immigrate, at least some portion of those who lose livelihoods as a result of climate change and other environmental hazards will likely become irregular migrants. The challenge in these cases is determining whether these individuals should be given consideration over others who migrate in search of better opportunities. Temporary protection policies that permit individuals whose countries have experienced natural disasters or other severe upheavals to remain at least temporarily without fear of deportation may help a limited number of those forced to flee their homes because of climate change, but these will not address the need for permanent resettlement, particularly for the citizens of island nations that may be affected by rising sea levels. Given concerns in many potential countries of destination about the social, cultural, economic and other impacts of large-scale migration, the policy development process will need to balance domestic interests with the clearly humanitarian implications of climate change induced displacement.
Background paper released by the German Marshall Fund's Transatlantic Study Team on Climate-induced Migration.

Summary: Policymakers in potential destination countries for international migrants have been slow to identify possible responses to manage environmentally induced migration that take these complex interconnections into account. Humanitarian admissions are generally limited to refugees and asylum seekers. Most environmental migrants, forced to flee because of loss of livelihood or habitat and not because of persecutory policies, will be unlikely to meet the legal definition of a refugee. In the absence of legal opportunities to immigrate, at least some portion of those who lose livelihoods as a result of climate change and other environmental hazards will likely become irregular migrants. The challenge in these cases is determining whether these individuals should be given consideration over others who migrate in search of better opportunities. Temporary protection policies that permit individuals whose countries have experienced natural disasters or other severe upheavals to remain at least temporarily without fear of deportation may help a limited number of those forced to flee their homes because of climate change, but these will not address the need for permanent resettlement, particularly for the citizens of island nations that may be affected by rising sea levels. Given concerns in many potential countries of destination about the social, cultural, economic and other impacts of large-scale migration, the policy development process will need to balance domestic interests with the clearly humanitarian implications of climate change induced displacement.

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Published by: Kayly on Jul 04, 2010
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Summary: Policymakers in potentialdestination countries for internationalmigrants have been slow to identifypossible responses to manage environ-mentally induced migration that takethese complex interconnections intoaccount. Humanitarian admissionsare generally limited to refugees andasylum seekers. Most environmental
migrants, forced to ee because of
loss of livelihood or habitat and notbecause of persecutory policies, will be
unlikely to meet the legal denition of
a refugee. In the absence of legal op-portunities to immigrate, at least someportion of those who lose livelihoodsas a result of climate change and otherenvironmental hazards will likely be-come irregular migrants. The challengein these cases is determining whetherthese individuals should be given con-sideration over others who migrate insearch of better opportunities. Tempo-rary protection policies that permit indi-viduals whose countries have experi-enced natural disasters or other severeupheavals to remain at least tempo-rarily without fear of deportation mayhelp a limited number of those forced
to ee their homes because of climate
change, but these will not addressthe need for permanent resettlement,particularly for the citizens of islandnations that may be affected by risingsea levels. Given concerns in manypotential countries of destination aboutthe social, cultural, economic and otherimpacts of large-scale migration, thepolicy development process will needto balance domestic interests with theclearly humanitarian implications ofclimate change induced displacement.
1744 R Street NWWashington, DC 200091 202 745 3950F 1 202 265 1662E ino@gmus.org
Study Team on Climate-Induced Migration
Experts generally agree that theenvironment is just one o the many reasons that prompt people to migrate,sometimes operating on its own butmore oen through other mecha-nisms, particularly loss o livelihoodsaected by environmental disruption.Policymakers in potential destinationcountries or international migrantshave been slow to identiy potentialresponses to manage environmentally induced migration that take thesecomplex interconnections into ac-count. Tis situation derives in partrom uncertainties about the actualimpacts o climate change on migra-tion. But, even where there is a recog-nition that some orm o migration re-lated to environmental change is likely to occur, addressing these movementsis hampered by the paucity o policy responses that are deemed appropriateto these orms o migration.Tis paper begins with a brie discus-sion o the potential impact o climatechange on migration patterns. It con-tinues with an examination o existingcapacities to address these orms o movement and gaps in the responsecapacities. Te paper concludes withrecommendations or addressing cli-mate change induced migration.
Background to the problem
Dierent policies and responses areneeded at each stage o environmen-tally induced migration. Te rststages are pre-migration, when actionsto mitigate climate change and helpindividuals adapt to environmentalhazards take place. It is outside o the scope o this paper to explore thesteps being taken by localities, nationsand the international community toreverse current environmental prob-lems, reduce the risks associated withnatural and human-made disasters,and avert uture environmental shocksthat may arise out o climate change.Suce to say that prevention o theunderlying causes o environmen-tally induced migration and develop-ing mechanisms to adapt to climatechange and variability is the mostcritical need in managing the issuescovered in this paper, but it will re-quire considerable political will, timeand resources to take the steps thatare needed to protect the environmentand increase people’s resilience.Displacement is the second stageo the lie cycle. Migration can beplanned or spontaneous, involvingindividuals and households or en-tire communities. It can be internal,with people moving shorter or longerdistances to nd new homes and liveli-hoods within their own countries, orit can be international, with peopleseeking to relocate to other countries.It can proceed as an orderly move-ment o people rom one location toanother, or it can occur under emer-gency circumstances. It can be tempo-rary, with most migrants expecting to
Climate Change and International Migration
by Susan F. Martin
June 2010
 
return home when conditions permit, or it can be perma-nent, with most migrants unable or unwilling to return.Each o these orms o migration requires signicantly dierent approaches and policy rameworks. Dependingon the specic situation, the environmental migrants may resemble labor migrants, seeking better livelihood oppor-tunities in a new location, or they may resemble reugeesand internally displaced persons who have fed situationsbeyond their individual control.
Life cycle of climate-induced migration
 
MitigationAdaptation/Disaster RiskReductionDisplacementReturn orResettlementIntegration
Te third stage o the lie cycle involves return or resettle-ment in another location. Te decision about whetherreturn is possible involves a range o variables, including theextent to which the environmental causes – either direct orthrough other channels – are likely to persist. Policies in thereceiving communities and countries, depending on wheth-er the migration is internal or international, will also aectthe likelihood or return or settlement in the new location.In addition to immigration policies, the policies aectingreturn and settlement include land use and property rights,social welare, housing, employment and other rame-works that determine whether individuals, households andcommunities are able to nd decent living conditions andpursue adequate livelihoods.Te nal stage o the lie cycle involves (re)integration intothe home or new location. Te policy rameworks outlinedabove will be key determinants o integration, infuencingthe access o displaced populations to housing, livelihoods,saety and security. Integration is also aected by plans andprograms to mitigate uture dislocations rom environmen-tal hazards, coming ull circle on the lie cycle to a ocus onprevention, adaptation and risk reduction.Most migration occurring rom climate change is likely tobe internal, with the aected populations seeking to ndmore habitable locations, with greater economic oppor-tunities, within their own countries. A portion o suchmigration will undoubtedly be international, however.In the most extreme cases, particularly in the context o rising sea levels, the entire population o island nationsmay need to be relocated. In other cases, environmentalmigrants will ollow already established labor migrationpatterns that are international in scope. For example, i climate change worsens drought conditions in Mexicanstates such as Jalisco that already have signicant migrationto the United States, additional residents may choose toollow their compatriots north. Similarly, rising sea levels inBangladesh may well add to already established migrationto India. In still other cases, new patterns o internationalmigration may occur, particularly i climate change aectshabitat and livelihoods in large regions and leads migrants togo to new destinations.Complicating the situation is the lack o good inormationand analysis about the circumstances in which internationalmigration may result rom climate change. Most projectionso climate change induced migration ocus on identiyinghabitat and livelihoods that will be adversely aected by environmental changes. Maps o changes that will resultrom various projections o sea level rise or intensieddrought provide useul tools to assess how many peoplewill be aected by these climatic changes and how many may be orced to leave their current homes. Tese maps donot provide a useul assessment, though, as to where they are likely to move – e.g., short or long distance, internally or internationally – or how these movements are likely totake place – spontaneously or planned, slowly or suddenly, voluntarily or orced.Without such basic inormation, developing an appropriatepolicy ramework is exceedingly dicult. Te next sectiondiscusses the rameworks already in place or managinginternational migration that may occur as a result o climatechange.
2
Study Team on Climate-Induced Migration
 
Existing policy frameworks and gaps in capacities
Te immigration policies o most destination countriesare not conducive to receiving large numbers o environ-mental migrants, unless they enter through already exist-ing admission categories. ypically, destination countriesadmit persons to ll job openings or to reuniy with amily members. Employment-based admissions are usually basedon the labor market needs o the receiving country, not thesituation o the home country. Workers can be admitted orpermanent residence or or temporary stays. Family admis-sions are usually restricted to persons with immediate rela-tives (spouses, children, parents and, sometimes, siblings)in the destination country. Most amily reunication is orpermanent residence.
Permanent Admissions
Family reunification
Labor migration/point systems
Refugee resettlement/permanent asylum
Temporary Admissions
Temporary worker programs/contract workers
Temporary protection/temporary asylum
Some countries also use point systems under which they admit immigrants who score highly against such criteria aseducation and language skills.Humanitarian admissions are generally limited to reugeesand asylum seekers – that is, those who t the denitionin the UN Convention Relating to the Status o Reugees:persons with a well-ounded ear o persecution on the basiso race, religion, nationality, membership in a particularsocial group or political opinion. Countries with perma-nent resettlement programs screen reugees overseas. By contrast, asylum generally applies within the territory o adestination country, which allows those who can establishtheir reugee
bonafdes
to remain, either temporarily untilthey can saely return or permanently. Most environmentalmigrants, orced to fee because o loss o livelihood or habi-tat and not because o persecutory policies, will be unlikely to meet the legal denition o a reugee.Some countries have established special policies thatpermit individuals whose countries have experiencednatural disasters or other severe upheavals to remain atleast temporarily without ear o deportation. Te UnitedStates, or example, enacted legislation in 1990 to pro- vide temporary protected status (PS) to persons “in theUnited States who are temporarily unable to saely returnto their home country because o ongoing armed con-fict, an environmental disaster, or other extraordinary and temporary conditions.” Environmental disaster may include “an earthquake, food, drought, epidemic, or otherenvironmental disaster in the state resulting in a substan-tial, but temporary, disruption o living conditions in thearea aected.” In the case o environmental disasters, ascompared to confict, the country o origin must requestdesignation o PS or its nationals.Importantly, PS only applies to persons already in theUnited States at the time o the designation. It is not meantto be a mechanism to respond to an unolding crisis inwhich people seek admission rom outside o the country.It also only pertains to situations that are temporary innature. I the environmental disaster has permanent conse-quences, a designation o emporary Protected Status is notavailable even or those presently in the United States, or itmay be lied. When the volcano erupted in Montserrat in1997, PS was granted to its citizens and was extended sixtimes. In 2005, however, it was ended because “it is likely that the eruptions will continue or decades, [and] the situ-ation that led to Montserrats designation can no longer beconsidered “‘temporary’ as required by Congress when itenacted the PS statute.”Another signicant actor is that the designation is discre-tionary, determined by the Secretary o Homeland Security.Countries or parts o countries are designated, allowing na-tionals only o those countries to apply. Currently, the desig-nation is in eect or citizens o El Salvador, Honduras andNicaragua. PS was originally triggered by the earthquakesin El Salvador and Hurricane Mitch in the other countries.It has been extended until September 9, 2010 (El Salvador)and July 5, 2010 (Honduras and Nicaragua). Notably, PSwas not triggered or the hurricanes that destroyed largeparts o Haiti. Given the temporary nature o the grant andits application only to those already in the country, PS
3
Study Team on Climate-Induced Migration

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