Each year, millions of people are displaced as a result of disasters.  Climate change is anticipated to increase the frequency and severity of disasters and extreme weather events, which means there is likely to be even more disaster-related displacement in the future. Climate change will also contribute to slower-onset impacts, such as desertification, drought and increased temperatures. Most disaster-related movement will occur within countries, rather than across international borders. However, there is likely to be some cross-border movement, for a variety of reasons. Sometimes, a State will not be able to deal with the scale of the disasters it faces, and people may seek assistance elsewhere.  In other cases, areas may no longer be habitable, and internal migration may not be a viable option.

While moving away from harm is a normal human adaptation strategy, the difficulty today is that people cannot simply migrate as and when they choose. National immigration laws restrict the entry of non-citizens into other countries. International law only recognizes a very small class of forced migrants as people whom other countries have an obligation to protect: ‘refugees’, ‘stateless persons’, and those eligible for complementary protection. This means that unless people fall within one of those groups, or can lawfully migrate for reasons such as employment, family and education, they run the risk of interdiction, detention and expulsion if they attempt to cross an international border and have no legal entitlement to stay in that other country.

This project examines how international law should approach displacement, migration and planned relocation in the context of natural disasters and the impacts of climate change.

Project Team

Project director: Professor Jane McAdam 

Related Projects

Complementary protection

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The Kaldor Centre plays a vital role in developing legal, sustainable and humane solutions for displaced people around the world.