Since 2008, environmental disasters have displaced approximately three times more people than violence and armed conflict. Climate change will increase the intensity and frequency of disasters, making climate displacement a growing global challenge.
But there is a legal protection gap for people fleeing climate-related disasters across and within borders because at this time, there are no multilateral treaties or domestic laws covering climate displacement and it is still unclear how international and regional refugee law applies to people displaced by climate change.
IRAP is working to expand legal protections for climate displaced people. Using existing legal tools and building on our expertise providing legal services to refugees and displaced people, as well as our work on legal advocacy and impact litigation, we will identify and advocate for pathways to safety for people displaced by climate change.
Client Story: Isabel*
As climate change constricted usable land and resources in her homeland, Isabel*, an Indigenous environmental defender, mobilized her tribe against Honduran government officials’ attempts at illegal land grabs and natural resource theft. In retaliation for her activism, Isabel and her family were targeted with threats and violence. She was granted asylum in the United States on the basis of ethnic discrimination and political persecution, but too many climate-displaced people like Isabel struggle to access legal protections and pathways to safety.
*Name and image have been changed to protect client identity. Photo Credit: SHARE Foundation
Client Story: Amina*
Amina* and her family are among the millions of people worldwide already facing climate displacement. Her family depended on her husband’s agricultural work, but in their home country of Yemen, their livelihood was impacted by worsening water scarcity, on top of civil unrest. The family was able to escape to Jordan, but they continue to struggle, since her husband is unable to get work authorization, and the family faces ethnic discrimination as Yemenis. The family’s legal case hinges on threats they received from Houthi rebels in Yemen, but environmental factors played a key role in their displacement. The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees has not recognized them as refugees, and there are not yet any multilateral treaties or U.S. laws covering climate displacement. IRAP is working to change this, because too many people like Amina struggle to access legal protections.
*Name and image have been changed to protect client identity. Photo: © European Union/ECHO
Call to Action Following White House Report on Climate Change and Migration
On the last day of the 2021 United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP26), IRAP and 12 partner organizations sent a letter to the White House to demand concrete action to address climate displacement. The full letter, including our requests and recommendations, is available here.
IRAP Responds to White House Report on Climate Change and Migration
Today, the White House National Security Council (NSC) issued a report on climate change and migration, the first time multiple U.S. agencies have worked together to comprehensively assess the impact of climate-fueled displacement. In the report, the Biden administration announced the creation of an interagency policy process to “coordinate U.S. government efforts to mitigate and respond to migration resulting from the impacts of climate change.”