(2015) Vol. 2, Issue 1 Giulia Jacovella 77
SOAS LAW JOURNAL
As Farbotko emphasises in this quote, several political issues are involved in
climate change as a discourse2 and phenomenon. Media coverage of natural
hazards has increased dramatically in recent times and environmentally-
induced migration (in short, environmental migration) has suddenly become a
potential security threat for the wealthier countries in the Global North.3 In this
Article, the expression ‘environmental migration’ is used to simplify the
complex phenomenon of human mobility, the root causes of which lie, at least
in part, in environmental factors, especially in climate change related events.4
This Article argues that environmental migration and climate change have
gradually been depoliticised and framed in an apparently neutral legal debate
and security concern. This marginalises the voices of the communities and
countries in the Global South that are more deeply and directly affected by
climate change. De-politicisation, in Hay’s words, ‘serves to insulate politicians
and their choices, immunising them from responsibility, accountability and
critique’.5 In fact, de-politicisatio n in this context mainly consists of presenting
technical solutions to complex problems6 and, as analysed in this Article, of
delegating environmental and social issues, which are political in nature, to the
realms of science and law.7
By building on existing literature, case law and data, this Article aims to
deconstruct environmental migration in order to understand its legal, political
and eco nomic underpinnings and t heir consequences in terms of human rig hts,
identity and climate justice. In particular, the analysis of legal cases from the
2 A Foucauldian m eaning of discourse is adopted here as ‘ways of constituting knowledge,
together with the social practices, forms of subjectivity and power relations which inhere in
such knowledges and relations between them’ as in Chris Weedon, Feminist Practice and Post-
Structuralist Theory (Basil Blackwell 1987) 108.
3 In this Article, Global North and Global South are considered as two discursive categories. The
first envisages countries and regions like Europe, the United States of America, Australia and
New Zealand that are economically ‘wealthy, technologically advanced [and] politically stable’.
The second category refers to countries and regions like Africa, India, China, Brazil and South
East Asia that are economically vulnerable, dependent on raw materials and politically and
economically influenced by the Global North as in Lemuel E Odeh, ‘A Comparative Analysis of
Global North and Global South Economies’ (2010) 12(3) Journal of Sustainable Development in
Africa 338. See also Lorraine Elliot, ‘Climate Migration and Climate Migrants: What Threat,
Whose Security?’ in Jane McAdam (ed), Climate Change and Displacement: Multidisciplinary
Perspectives (Hart Publishing 2010).
4 Allan M Findlay, ‘Migrant Destinations in an Era of Environmental Change’ (2011) 21(1)
Global Environmental Change 51.
5 Colin Hay, Why We Hate Politics (Polity Press 2013) 92.
7 Anneelen Kenis and Matthias Lievens, ‘Searching for the Political in Environmental Politics’
(2014) 23(4) Environmental Politics 531.