Date of Graduation

Spring 5-18-2019

Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts in Migration Studies


College of Arts and Sciences


Migration Studies

First Advisor

Dr. Stephanie Siehr



This paper explores the growing phenomenon of migration due to climate change through an analysis of human rights and a review of international conventions. It argues that current migration, refugee and asylum regimes at the regional and international policy levels are inadequate to serve the needs of individuals, families and communities that are preemptively relocating or are forced to migrate due to climate change and its subsequent effects. This paper shows that environmentally-displaced migrants who are either forcibly displaced or preemptively migrating do not have sufficient recognition or legal or political protections compared to ‘traditional’ refugees or migrants. The lack of resources leaves environmentally-displaced migrants in a limbo where individuals, families and whole communities have migrated internally to capital and major city centers only to wait for limited visa or work opportunities in major regional or former colonial hegemonic states. The migrants themselves may resort to drastic unauthorized migration efforts only to be denied refugee or asylum claims at the destination state. This paper argues that refocusing the discussion around migration through the lens of Survival Migration which centers front-line communities and human agency, will provide relief not only for environmentally-displaced migrants but also state actors and humanitarian agencies.

Keywords: environmentally-displaced migrants, climate change, survival migration