Climate Refugees
5/1/09

Each-For (Environmental Changes and Forced Migration Scenarios) is a European research programme, which has carried out 22 case studies throughout the world. The objective is to analyse the links between the deterioration of the environment and migrations flows. The University of Liège Centre for Ethnicity and Migration Studies (CEDEM) is co-ordinating the research components in Central and South-East Asia.

At the present time few studies are analysing the links between global warming and major migration flows. Nonetheless, in several of the planet’s regions, rises in sea levels for example will have catastrophic repercussions as they will oblige the inhabitants in place to seek refuge in other territories. What policies have been set in place to confront this new migration flow? Should we from now on estimate that environmental changes will become a factor in migration? It is questions such as these that Each-For is in particular trying to respond to.

Begun in 2007, the European study has today ended and has delivered its preliminary conclusions. The study has been carried out on an international scale by around a dozen researchers, including François Gemenne, a researcher at the University of Liège Centre for Ethnicity and Migration Studies (CEDEM), for whom this study has the status of an obligation: ‘As long we do not study and acknowledge the problem, we will have no means of resolving it.’

We have for a long time considered that the main factors which led to migration flows were uniquely political or economic in form. It is only recently that environmental factors have also begun to be taken into account in research into migrations.

Each-for program

It is for four years now that François Gemenne has been observing the policies put in place to deal with migration movements linked to environmental decline. By turn in the university libraries, by turn in the field, he has met local authorities, has gained the confidence of disaster victims, referred to the archives and consulted videos, and tries to see how, today, local authorities are reacting in the face of an unseen situation: that of ‘climate refugees’.

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