Migrants and climate change. When the right of residence is breached

August 24, 2017
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Kiribati is a small Pacific archipelago, to the West of the international date line: it was «the first nation to enter the new millennium» but «it may be the first to exit it, disappearing under the waves» (Singer P. , One World. The Ethics of Globalization, New Haven, Yale University Press, 2002).

In fact, due to the effects of climate change on the level of the seas, on coral reefs and other elements of the archipelago ecosystem, the waves could end up flooding Kiribati and many other areas of the planet whose altitude is slightly above sea level.

This observation marks the beginning of a new article by Gianfranco Pellegrino by the title of Climate Migrants Rights, out soon in the new issue of the “Equilibri” magazine.

Pellegrino analyzes the issue by asking two questions: how do people who migrate due to climate change should be considered? Is this a new category of “migrants” or a new kind of “asylum seekers” or, again, “refugees” who deserve the protection afforded by international law?

Facing this tricky issue, even from a legal point of view, on the qualification for refugee status, Pellegrino outlines the portrait of the climate refugee, to which he associates a number of individual rights that cannot be ignored.

His clear and widely well-argued position is that climate migrants are to be considered refugees in all respects and should be granted asylum to compensate them for the loss of what they call their “right of residence”, the fundamental rights to reside freely in the territory they have chosen or where they happened to have lived.

This is a matter of the utmost interest, especially in the current socio-political landscape, in which the migrants issue and the increasingly obvious consequences of the so-called “climate change” are more and more at the heart of debate in the institutional, academic and public spheres.

I diritti dei rifugiati climatici