Environmental Displacement in European Asylum Law

  • Citation: Myrstad, Finn, and Vikram Kolmannskog. “Environmental Displacement in European Asylum Law.” European Journal of Migration and Law 11, no. 4 (2009): 313–26.
    • Topics:
    • Transnational Issues
    • Keywords:
    • legal migration
    • humanitarian asylum
    • non-refoulement
    • climate change
    • temporary protection
    • subsidiary protection
    • human rights
    • environmental displacement

Environmentally displaced persons can be included in several existing categories of protected persons under international law, but there may be a normative protection gap for many of those who cross an international border. This article looks at protection possibilities within the EU framework and national European legislations. Environmental displacement can arguably trigger temporary protection according to the EU Temporary Protection Directive. There may also be environmentally displaced persons who require longer-term or permanent protection. Drawing on the EU Qualification Directive and case-law from the European Court of Human Rights, one can argue that subsidiary protection should be granted in certain cases of extreme natural disaster or degradation. In less extreme cases, humanitarian asylum could be granted. Human rights principles such as non-refoulement could also be used to extend at least basic protection. In addition, legal labour migration could supply a work force, assist distressed countries and enhance protection of the individual. A strategy to meet the challenge of environmental displacement must also include climate change mitigation and external measures such as adaptation. Most of the displaced persons in the world today and in the near future do not arrive at the EU borders.

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