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The Concept of Climate Migration

Advocacy and its Prospects

Benoît Mayer

This timely book offers a unique interdisciplinary inquiry into the prospects of different political narratives on climate migration. It identifies the essential angles on climate migration – the humanitarian narrative, the migration narrative and the climate change narrative – and assesses their prospects. The author contends that although such arguments will influence global governance, they will not necessarily achieve what advocates hope for. He discusses how the weaknesses of the concept of “climate migration” are likely to be utilized in favour of repressive policies against migration or for the defence of industrial nations against perceived threats from the Third World.
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Chapter 3: The migration narrative – protection gaps, the refugee analogy, and the rights of migrants

Benoît Mayer


The 1951 Convention relating to the Status of Refugees and its 1967 Protocol established an international protection regime applicable to a narrowly defined category of individuals unable to return to their country of origin due to a “well-founded fear of being persecuted for reasons of race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group or political opinion.” Most of the impact of climate change occurs outside this regime, and outside complementary regimes of protection, being generally confined within states and more often than not occurring in circumstances where migration appears as “voluntary” rather than “forced.” Beyond weak arguments by analogy for a protection of “climate refugees,” climate change sheds new light on the need for a protection of the rights of all migrants. In response to climate change, human mobility needs to be reconceived as a “normal” social phenomenon, and the specific vulnerability of migrants needs to be addressed systematically through adequate measures of protection.

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