The Curious Case of Environmental Refugees: Environmental Refugees May be Better Protected without Being Declared as 'Refugees'
12 Pages Posted: 10 Apr 2020
Date Written: November 30, 2019
The debate regarding legal rights of persons migrating due to climate associated events or processes is not new. The debate pre-dates the coinageof the term “environmental refugees” and even until today, it has not reached a logical conclusion. Rather it has remained limited to academic discourses, the layman is still unaware of the legal vacuum that exists with respect to protection of Environmental Refugees. This is because there has not been an official recognition and definition of the term under an international instrument. The use of the word refugees is problematic as the international law on refugees employs a narrow definition of refugees only covers persons fleeing persecution and not being protected by the state. Therefore, until and unless people affected by climate change also face persecution by their state, they will not be “refugees” in the legal sense of the word. There is confusion in the international as to whether the protection of Environmental Refugees would fall under the domain of refugee law, environmental law or migration law or at an interface of all of these. Law on Human Rights provides for certain protection; however, these are not specific to Environmental Refugees but general rights. The argument of the authors is that mere designation of climate change displaced persons as refugees would not grant them enough protection. The approach for their protection should involve a coordinated effort under an interface of migration laws, environmental laws and refugee laws to say the least.
Keywords: Climate Change, Environmental Refugees, International Law, Migration, Protection
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation