No Room at the Inn: Policy, Law, and the Rights of Environmental Migrants

Authors: Debra M Butler*, University of Massachusetts Boston
Topics: Migration, Human Rights, Political Geography
Keywords: environmental migrations, destination communities, legal protections
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/14/2018
Start / End Time: 4:00 PM / 5:40 PM
Room: Napoleon A3, Sheraton, 3rd Floor
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


This paper examines the status of environmental migrants (internally displaced persons, IDPs) and the socio-ecological impact of IDPs on recipient or destination communities. Environmental migration is inevitable. Fair and just treatment of internally displaced persons in response to degradation of natural resources, critical infrastructure or land loss must be required of all civil societies. The United States government has yet to develop comprehensive policies on federal, regional or state levels that address environmental migration. The United States does not guarantee legal protection, remedies, nor the constitutional rights of its own citizens who are internally displaced although such protocols are established and fully operational under United Nations guidelines. Climate event policies should include mitigating security and health risks; reducing vulnerability of life-support systems and critical infrastructure; insuring legal rights and protections; and, strengthening the coping and recovery capacity of communities. Destination communities will experience resource scarcities as population densities increase due to extraordinary in-migrations. Internally displaced persons will require social, economic and political infrastructure to facilitate the recovery and rebuilding livelihoods. Research shows that both urban and rural destinations, especially those in marginal and economically depressed locations, are unable to support internally displaced persons. Policy must require that coastal sea-level rise assessments be expanded from regional to “everywhere” environmental concerns. This paper proposes a framework for addressing critical issues on the northern Gulf Coast, provides a broader conceptual model for examining the vulnerability and resilience capacity of destination communities nationwide and offers additional areas of discussion for legal and migration scholars.

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