Environmental refugees: exposing their protection gaps in international law
This dissertation explores two principal research questions: first, whether international law provides for a mechanism that protects those moving away from harsh environmental conditions and secondly, whether existing international refugee laws can be adopted with necessary modifications to contain ‘environmental refugees’.The point of departure of this dissertation will be the existing 1951 Geneva Convention relating to the Status of Refugees enacted six decades ago to protect people fleeing persecution of their civil and political liberties. It will be argued that this Convention is an antiquated form of protection for the recent wave of migration patterns across international borders to escape environmental calamities witnessed from across the Sahel and the Horn of Africa, as well as the Soviet Union, Latin America and low-lying islands such as Tuvalu and Kiribati. As such there is a new breed of refugees who will be named ‘environmental refugees’ for purposes of this study, who cannot find solace in the existing refugee laws. The dissertation will investigate the existing international and regional laws in detail, as well as alternative protective regimes before recommending a holistic approach in dealing with this emergent crisis.