Why environmentally displaced persons from lowlying island nations are not climate “refugees”: a legal analysis

D4 Published development or research report or study

Internal Authors/Editors

Publication Details

List of Authors: Michel Rouleau-Dick
Publisher: Institute for Human Rights Åbo Akademy University
Place: Åbo
Publication year: 2018
Start page: 1
End page: 22


While the media often use the term “climate refugee”, its legal significance is, at best, uncertain. “Refugee” is a legal term, defined by Article 1A of the 1951 Convention on the Status of Refugees. Thus, when the populations in danger of being displaced by the effects of climate change are referred to as “climate refugees”, the implicit assumption is that they qualify for the legal status of refugees, according to its legal definition. This working paper clarifies the situation by analysing if environmentally displaced persons from low-lying island states, those most vulnerable to the effects of climate change, would, upon leaving their country of origin, qualify as refugees under the legal definition of the term. The paper also assesses the relevance of the non-refoulement principle, another element of the international framework of protection of internationally displaced persons.


Climate change, Refugees


Last updated on 2020-30-05 at 03:45