Issues for Legal Protection of Climate-related Migrants and Displaced Persons

Michelle Leighton Center for Law and Global Justice University of San Francisco School of Law

 Human rights standards and government obligations relating to voluntary and forced migration responses will need to be clarified in order to protect all climate victims.Overview  Human displacement or migration in response to climate disasters implicate human rights and humanitarian law. .  Standards are uneven or ambiguous depending on the climate impact--government obligations depend on nature and type of climate disaster: In some cases standards are defined and in other cases they do not exist.

children). protect victims affected by disaster. •duty to respect. protect and fulfill human rights.Basis of states legal obligations •International law: states owe duties to each other. •Human rights /humanitarian law oblige government’s to: prevent disasters. and assist victims in territory and/or refugees. •special responsibility to protect vulnerable groups (indigenous peoples. women. . minorities. •special duties owed toward refugees. • Human rights law: states also owe duties to individuals.

and 2007 Red Cross Guidelines for Domestic Facilitation and Regulation of International Disaster Relief .  Improve strategic coordination of government assistance Reinforced by the 2006 IASC Operational guidelines on Human Rights and Natural Disasters. Tung X.Climate change and disasters Is Climate Change a disaster? Humanitarian norms convey responsibility on governments to provide relief to disaster victims in their territory and to help disaster victims in other states less able to do so. Ngo/IRIN Flood Vietnam 2005 Hyogo Framework for Action  Disaster risk reduction—help countries reduce vulnerability.

Human rights norms on cooperation and assistance Covenant on Ecomonic. Social and Cultural Rights. in accordance with the Charter of the United Nations and relevant resolutions of the United Nations General Assembly and of the World Health Assembly. to cooperate in providing disaster relief and humanitarian assistance in times of emergency.‖ --Committee Eonomic. including U.S. IESCR treaty body 160 countries ratified. Cultural Rights: ― States parties have a joint and individual responsibility. including assistance to refugees and internally displaced persons. Social.  This includes climate disasters—does assistance include permitting ―migration when there is no or few alternatives?‖ . additional 6 signed.

and housing right to culture right to information and participation in decision-making right to asylum.Human rights in the context of climate-related migration Human rights provides for freedom of movement. All rights attach to the human person and their dignity wherever they reside or move. water. including as they cross political borders. Scope of state’s duties change but include minimum protections for: – – – – – – – – right to be free from discrimination right to property right to family and privacy right to health right to food. .

org order disrupted. . receiving country migration laws on disaster victims. rapid-onset v. slower-onset. legal status and/or work when they move in response to climate disasters? Does it depend on type of disaster? 1. 2. 3. requiring regional state protection. whether state of emergency or public Zunia.Government obligations toward climate-related migrants Are migrants entitled to receive protection.

and desertification through labor migration.International migrants: slow-onset disasters People seek to cope with drought. resolutions. InterAmerican Commission cases: principle of nonrefoulement prevents return. Refugee norms may apply only if emergency or environment-related conflict. U. Temporary protection status (only for migrants to Denmark). 1951 Refugee Convention.N. European Court.‖ 1984 Cartagena Declaration on Refugees (Latin American region): includes similar provision to OAU. 1969 OAU convention on Specific Aspects of Refugee Problems in Africa: ―events seriously disturbing public order. .

FUTUE DISASTER: 21 Countries to lose between 30% . Sudan: 56% Equatorial Africa: 60% 42% Mexico 45% India 2.60% of agriculture Senegal: 52%. - .3 billion in drylands threatened by mega-droughts.

. floods. including allowing for temporary migration. Shamsuddin Ahmed/IRIN  The international community has provided assistance. hurricanes seek temporary refuge.  Council of Europe and some countries have TPS: applies to those already in-country and very narrow protection.International migrants: rapid-onset disasters  Those migrating from storms. No return if dangerous and/or country of origin could not assist.

.  European Directive on Subsidiary Protection: would convey temporary status to third party nationals.International migrants: sea-level rise Who will be responsible? Photo courtesy of SPREP  Persons living on small island states displaced due to seawater intrusion or forced to migrate permanently.  May result in ―statelessness.

dignity and security of persons displaced.‖  Guidelines protect the right of internal movement.Internally displaced persons I ―Persons forced or obliged to flee or to leave their homes or places of habitual residence. May not be arbitrary / discriminatory. . as a result of or to avoid effects of…natural or human-made disasters. nor harmful to the needs of indigenous or marginalized groups dependent on their lands.  Forced relocation only as last resort to protect the health and safety of those affected . right to life. and who have not crossed a state border.  Climate adaptation plan include recognition of migration or forced relocation but do not identify standards that would apply.

g.Gaps and disparities in protection  Not all climate disasters addressed equally: .Rapid-onset disasters receive greater recognition as disaster and larger assistance than slow-onset. e. . Droughts.  Not all disaster victims protected equally: Laws protect some but not all victims forced to migrate depending on type of disaster and whether receiving country has favorable laws. countries in region with treaty have higher standards than in other regions. rather than the victim’s immediate need.  Not all countries are accountable equally: Standards largely voluntary (including for IDPs) and protection of victims inconsistent. Kampala Convention).

coastal storm surges.  Persons forced to relocate or resettle under government programs of adaptation—no binding guidelines apply. Niger .Who is unprotected?  Persons moving across international borders due to the sudden-onset of natural climate disasters.  Persons moving across borders to seek refuge from designated ―highrisk‖ zones too dangerous for human habitation due to climate danger.  Persons moving inside or outside their country as a consequence of slower-onset climatic events. or salinization resulting from sea water moving inland---persons could be rendered stateless. persistent drought. such as long-term.  Persons moving to international destinations from islands threatened by sea-level rise.

– Council of Europe parliamentary committee recommended adopting standards for climate migrants within a migration agreement or protocol to the European Convention on Human Rights. .Filling the normative gaps  Clarify standards of protection for climate-related migrants.  Adopt international or regional agreements (similar to Kampala Convention) that solidify the IDP Guiding Principles to ensure implementation and increase accountability. assist governments in managing migration in ways that will enhance the positive impacts and reduce the adverse impacts of forced displacement.  Facilitate a holistic approach to research and policy development. provide greater protection for international migrants not able to return due to climate events.  Where climate adaptation programs acknowledge migration will occur. possibly through national migration management systems.  At a minimum. Some call for a full convention treaty text on the subject.

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