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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. Overview.
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Center for Law and Global Justice
University of San Francisco
School of Law
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.
Tung X. Ngo/IRIN Flood Vietnam
2005 Hyogo Framework for Action
Reinforced by the 2006 IASC Operational guidelines on Human Rights and Natural Disasters, and 2007 Red Cross Guidelines for Domestic Facilitation and Regulation of International Disaster Relief
Covenant on Ecomonic, Social, Cultural Rights:
“ States parties have a joint and individual responsibility, 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, including assistance to refugees and internally displaced persons.”
--Committee Eonomic, Social and Cultural Rights, IESCR treaty body
160 countries ratified; additional 6 signed, including U.S.
Human rights provides for freedom of movement. All rights attach to
the human person and their dignity wherever they reside or move,
including as they cross political borders. Scope of state’s duties change
but include minimum protections for:
Are migrants entitled to receive protection,
legal status and/or work when they move
in response to climate disasters?
Does it depend on type of disaster?
1. rapid-onset v. slower-onset;
2. whether state of emergency or public
order disrupted, requiring regional state protection;
3. receiving country migration laws on disaster victims.
People seek to cope with drought- and
desertification through labor migration.
Refugee norms may apply only if
emergency or environment-related conflict.
1951 Refugee Convention, U.N. resolutions, European Court, Inter-American Commission cases: principle of nonrefoulementprevents return.
1969 OAU convention on Specific Aspects of Refugee Problems in Africa: “events seriously disturbing public order.” 1984 Cartagena Declaration on Refugees (Latin American region): includes similar provision to OAU.
Temporary protection status (only for migrants to Denmark).
21 Countries to lose between 30% - 60% of agriculture
Equatorial Africa: 60%
2.3 billion in drylands threatened by mega-droughts.
hurricanes seek temporary refuge.
No return if dangerous and/or
country of origin could not assist.
Who will be responsible?
Photo courtesy of SPREP
I “Persons forced or obliged to flee or to leave their homes or places of habitual residence, as a result of or to avoid effects of…natural or human-made disasters, and who have not crossed a state border.”
- Laws protect some but not all victims forced to migrate depending on type of disaster and whether receiving country has favorable laws, rather than the victim’s immediate need.
- Standards largely voluntary (including for IDPs) and protection of victims inconsistent; countries in region with treaty have higher standards than in other regions, e.g. Kampala Convention).
to the sudden-onset of natural climate disasters;