The new meaning to refugeehood : environmental refugees as an exemplary adaptation of the legal notion to contemporary contexts and realities

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Chae, Song ha
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The refugee crisis has become more complex. In the past decade, it has gone through radical changes in the type and scale of refugee movements. In actuality, the great majority of those seeking protection do not flee individual persecution. Today, most of the current refugee flows stem from environmental disruptions. Persons seeking refuge from environmental events have already outnumbered those who flee traditional forms of persecution, namely political strife yet the former group of persons fall outside the scope of the Refugee Convention and are not afforded the legal protection of the latter group. Indeed, refugeehood has become increasingly multi-dimensional and inter-related, generated by natural calamities and human rights deprivations. The emergence of the concept of environmental refugees has accentuated the deficiency in the refugee regime to protect those who do not quite fit the traditional refugee definition but are in need of protection and assistance, nonetheless. In light of the recent migratory pressures that engender non-traditional refugee movements, the unprecedented changes in the refugee problem can no longer be viewed in a vacuum. This thesis is an effort to present realistic descriptions of the problem in the current refugee regime in relation to the case of environmental refugees. Arguments and reasons to revise the international refugee regime in favour of non-traditional refugees will be conceptualised through the evaluation of environmental refugees. First, the causes of their forced migration are described, then the consequences are analysed and lastly, the conclusion reached is that the focus must be on the human rights of those affected, in order to give the term refugee its original usefulness and meaning.
Second semester University: Maastricht University.
migrations, refugee law, refugee status