Unacknowledged and unwanted? Environmental refugee in search of legal status
Razzaque, J. and Höing, N. (2012) Unacknowledged and unwanted? Environmental refugee in search of legal status. Journal of Global Ethics, 8 (1). pp. 19-40. ISSN 1744-9626
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Publisher's URL: http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/17449626.2011.635691
Environmental displacement is a global phenomenon affecting millions of people. Due to climate change and the corresponding sea-level rise, it is estimated that about eight million of indigenous people of Pacific Islands will be forced to settle elsewhere by 2050. This is one of many examples confirming the need to ascertain the legal status of environmental refugee in international law. The term 'environmental refugee' is controversially discussed and internationally not recognised. First, this article discusses the reasons for reluctance of international organisations to accept this term. Second, noting the cold reception of this term at the regional and state levels, a discussion on whether fears associated with this term are based on solid arguments becomes pertinent. Third, this article outlines the possibility of granting refugee status under international law, especially under human rights and environmental law. Fourth, academic discourses will be examined as they play a crucial role in the conceptual development of 'environmental refugee' and, to some academics, the existing refugee definition already encompasses 'environmental refugees'. Taking into account the developments of the environmental and human rights regime, this article concludes that time is ripe for international law to provide refugee status to environmentally displaced people.
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