Climate Migrants - Facts and Terms

Climate refugee or climate migrant? What term is better to use? How does international law address their status?
Climate refugee or climate migrant?​
Refugees are protected under the international law by the United Nations Convention on the Status of Refugees from 1951. According to the Convention, only a person who has reasonable grounds for being persecuted because of race, nationality, religion, membership of a particular social group or political affiliation is a refugee. However, there is no mention of threat of climate change in the Convention, so we cannot speak of climate refugees at present, as international law does not know this term. You can read more about refugees here.

It is therefore more appropriate to use the word 'climate migrants', people who have to move because of climate change. More about using the right words in the migration and asylum topic can be found here. It should also be stressed that at present climate migration is mainly a national problem - that is, people affected by climate change are still moving most within their own borders, do not cross borders and do not seek protection from another country. It is therefore important that, when adopting policies, states continue to prioritize preventive solutions to prevent further deterioration.
How does international law address the status of climate migrants?
Although international law does not recognize climate change as a reason for recognizing refugee status, in some cases we already see a link between the negative effects of climate change and the triggering or aggravation of existing conflicts. In this case, if there is a link between the reasons that make people run away and environmental degradation, UNHCR and the Global Compact on Migration recognize that such combined reasons - in the theory called dynamic nexus - may fall under the grounds for refugee recognition under the Geneva Convention on the Status of Refugees. However, this solves the situation of only a minority of present and future environmental migrants.
This is why the Global Compact on Migration addresses the issue of global climate migration. In particular, it stresses the importance of measures to mitigate and cope with the effects of the climate crisis so as to minimize triggers for environmental migration, including countries' cooperation in finding solutions for those forced to leave their homes.
For both current and future climate migrants, it is important that countries focus primarily on preventive measures. However, in the case of people who will have to move outside their own country, all legal options must be used to move safely. This includes various types of temporary protection, humanitarian visas, residence permits, or bilateral or multilateral agreements.
More about climate migration can be found here:

This article is supported by the Migration Compass project, implemented by the Human Rights Liga - Liga za ľudské práva, o.z. The non-repayable financial contribution is provided from the resources of the Operational Program Effective Public Administration from the European Social Fund.