The State of Environmental Migration 2014


Rationale for the Project

The State of Environmental Migration is meant to be an annual series of a compilation of students papers, produced in the frame of the course on “Environment and Migration” at PSIA.

It is supervised by two researchers and one practioners, and published jointly by both Sciences Po and the International Organization for Migrations (IOM). It is an assessment of environmental phenomena that occurred during the year, being slow or sudden onset, manmade or natural, through their impact on migration flows and policies. By being both on assessment of migration movements and an overview of the country situation in terms of environmental, social and legal vulnerabilities and gaps, those studies would provide country profiles essential to the current research on environmentally induced migration.

The idea behind the choice of assembling such a volume is twofold.

  • To promote young researcher work on the issue of environment, climate change and migration. Editing such a volume is a stepping-stone for promising graduated students and a mean of encouraging networking within the community of young researchers. The support of IOM on this project is also the sign of a significant growing interest within international organizations for enhancing the work of young scholars.
  • The State of Environmental Migration is meant to be a visible and accessible manual on the emerging issue of environmental migration, for students, scholars, journalists and particulars interested in the issue.

Three editions have been published so far:

The SEM 2014 should be published in the Fall of 2014. The different case-studies should be gathered on a dedicated website, common to all SEM editions – currently in process.


The papers should not exceed 7,000 words – bibliography included.

Yet, in the cases of a joint work between two students, the joint paper should not exceed 10,000 words.

Case studies should address various issues, among which one should be particularly highlighted:

  • Migration and displacement policies and management;
  • Voluntary versus forced displacement;
  • Adaptation policies,
  • Disaster Risk reduction and management strategies;
  • Internally displaced people, refugees and migrant protection;
  • Vulnerabilities and human security;
  • Protection of human rights.

The analysis should be twofold:

  1.  Field grounded:

In most cases, your paper will be one of the first attempts to document a recent case of environmental migration. Therefore, the amount of sources/documents you will be able to use is likely to be (very) limited. A key objective of the work is that you create your own research material: you should therefore interview who are present in the field or operatives who have been present on the field at the time of the crisis. IOM local offices as well as the editorial team can help you get access to these people. Press articles are also likely to be a key research materials, as well as statistical data that you can obtain from public authorities, international organisations and NGOs.

You should also provide as much data and information as you can about the ongoing migration/displacement, the perception of such movements within the studied country. Accordingly, media sources and any type of humanitarian reports should be looked for, studied and confronted with one another as exhaustively as possible

Try to address the following in particular:

  • Summary of environmental vulnerabilities of the said country/region
  • Historical overview of precedent disaster and displacement

Please make sure both sections do not goes beyond a fifth of the total length of the paper.

  • Data on current displacement: date is often the most difficult part to document. Often, students face lack of data and/or contradictory data. This should not be seen as a obstacle but rather be reflected upon in your research: discuss the sources, the gaps between one number and another etc.
  • Overview of current protection and management challenges : one should be favored and particularly discussed in your paper.

2. Socio-political:

You will need to pay a specific attention to the policy responses that are/have been implemented to deal with your case of environmental migration. Which actors are involved? What are the legal and policy challenges? How is the reconstruction going?

Avoid all generalities and theoretical points about environmental migration; these will be covered in the introduction. You should note hesitate to include policy recommendations in the concluding section of your case.


Please ensure that your references follow the following guidelines.

Phone and possibly field interviews are highly recommended.

It goes without saying that plagiarism is strictly forbidden, and that all information should be referenced.

1. Reference should be as much as possible brackets within the text with the author name, the date, and the page if quoting. Footnote should rather be used to bring to the attention of the reader to specific or complementary information.

Ex:   In 2010, it is estimated that more than 30 million people were displaced by extreme environment events in Asia and the Pacific (Yenotani 2011).

2. Complete reference should then be carefully reported at the end of the chapter, following this template:

Books and reports

Yenotani, Michelle. 2011. Displacement due to natural hazard-induced disasters. Global estimates for 2009 and 2010. Oslo: IDMC & NRC.


Gemenne, François. 2011. Why the numbers don’t add up: A review of estimates and predictions of people displaced by environmental changes. Global Environmental Change 21 (S1): 41-49.

Press articles

Moreno, Sylvia. 2006. « After Welcoming Evacuees, Houston Handles Spike in Crime. » In Washington Post. Washington, DC. A03.


Interview with Dina Ionesco, IOM Policy Officer, conducted on 15 March 2013 in Geneva.


International Organisation for Migration, (consulted on 15 March 2013).


The SEM especially seek to be a visual support of researched information. Graphics, tables and images are highly recommended.

Yet, to ensure copyright, authors are required to correctly reference the source of the visuals. Own elaborated visuals should be notified as follow  – Source: Author’s Name, Year . Pictures and images cannot be copied without permission, therefore images without copyright will be removed from the articles.


  • February 10th: Choice of case-studies
  • March 3rd: Submission of abstract
  • April 7th: Submission of papers (assignment for the class)
  • April (date TBC): Feedback on the papers
  • May: Selection of papers, structure and elaboration of table of contents – First batch of comments to be sent to the students (editors)
  • Late May: Meeting between editors and students
  • Late June: Submission of papers – second version (students)
  • July/August: Editing and publishing

Contacts Information


32 réflexions au sujet de « The State of Environmental Migration 2014 »

  1. I would like to work on Alaska and the village of Newtok. The guardian call the inhabitants of thia village « the first American climate refugee ». Tribal communities are threatened by climate change.

  2. Flooding and Landslides in Brazil, Dec 2013

    Causing more than 40,000 people to flee, according to some reports, the flooding due to heavy rains and associated landslides hit south-eastern Brazil (Espirito Santo and Minas Gerais) in late 2013. Rio de Janeiro state was also affected and hillside slums were evacuated due to landslides.

    One of the key concerns in this case is vulnerability, with the effectiveness of alert systems in favelas being a key issue. In addition, disaster risk reduction and management strategy is an interesting avenue for exploration. Having completed an undergraduate dissertation on global landslide hazard and risk, during which I saw how landslide impact was underreported in situations of flooding, I would also be interested in the question of whether the nature of displacement linked to landslides is different to that of flooding, i.e. is displacement longer term, albeit more localised?

  3. Sea-level change affecting low-lying Pacific island states (slow-onset C/S)

    Given the attempt, and the failure in November 2013, of a Kiribati national to be recognised as the world’s first “Climate Change Refugee” by New Zealand, I would also be interested in looking at policies being implemented by low-lying Pacific Island states affected by sea level change (as well as other CC issues such as storm surges). What are the global policy frameworks in place for these people, if any? Are these island states looking to facilitate migration? It would be interesting to look at this in the context of the State of Environmental Migration 2014 given current debates (particularly in the media) about the official status of “Climate Change Refugees” (does this even exist?).

    This could be a really interesting case study with empirical data (particularly via. interviews) from a variety of sources.

  4. Flood in La Plata, Argentina, Ap 2013.
    3000 people touched, 56 killed.
    It would be interesting to study the vulnerability of La Plata – and its evolution since the desaster. The city was not prepared at all whereas Buenos Aires does have emergency plans for this kind of events. The informal way that people were helped is also interesting (huge movement of solidarity in the province).

  5. Viet Nam and Climate Change.

    I would like to study the case of Viet Nam, whose population suffers every year from natural disasters – among which floods, storms and landslides. Being Viet Nam among the most prone countries to natural disasters in the world, it will be highly affected by climate change. The effect on the population is critical: only in November 17, 2013, 78,395 people have been evacuated due to extensive floods in the Central regions, which cause the death of 42 people and the flooding of 425,573 households.

    I would like to focus on the adaptation strategies the Vietnamese Government has implemented so far and the internal displacement of people from rural to urban areas.

  6. The Philippines lying in the Pacific Ocean is an extremely vulnerable country for environmental disasters and is yearly hit by around 20 Taifuns. The archipelago is frequently listed among the most vulnerable countries being one of the biggest victims suffering from the consequences caused by the current effects of Climate Change.
    Taifun Haiyan, or Yolanda as it is called by the locals, hit the Philippines in the beginning of November 2013 being one of the strongest and violent tropical Taifuns ever measured. Especially concerned were the island group of the Visayas in the Southern center of the country which knew incredible devastation and human losses and important short- and long-term consequences leading to a huge population displacement.
    In my Essay I would like to investigate about these Migration flows and the human impacts of the Taifun as well as how government and in this case also the International Community reacted and how they think to Support These migrants that day by day are heading to the overcrowded urban Slums.

  7. I would like to write about Typhoon Phailin – India case, which was the strongest cyclone since 14 years and affected the livelihoods of more than 13 milion people. I will focus on the early evacuation, prepared by Government and aid organizations. Thanks to it, about 1 million of the most vulnerable residents along the coast colud be deplaced to safiest area.

    Btw, does anybody want to work in pair? I also thought about The Philippines topc.

  8. I would like to study the case of Morocco. it is affected by climate change through desertification and sea-level rise. What makes it an interesting topic is that people move North internally and at an international level: migrants from sub-Saharan countries use Morocco as a transit country or as their destination. I would also study the various policies of the government to address climate change, and the policy recommendations provided by the international organizations such as the World Bank.

  9. I would like to look at the Karamoja region of Uganda, a dry, ‘nomad-land,’ where harvests are below needs every year. It is the most affected area of Uganda by climate change, and drought is the most common disaster, which has led to famine, malnutrition etc. The region receives food aid from international organizations such as the WFP, but many families survival strategy is to send one of the family members to the capital. It is shown that they there often end up begging on the street. Climate change is expected to reduce crop yields further with increased numbers of droughts in the years to come, and it will challenge the social and economic development in Karamoja, which is already the poorest and least developed region in Uganda.

  10. I would like to look at the flood in northern part of Bangladesh triggered by downpour and onrush of water from the upstream in July 2013. For details:

    According to World Bank numbers, 51% of the population in this area is living below the poverty line. It would be interesting to look at these floods in Bangladesh’s northern region in relation to the linkages between disasters and poverty. Looking at just drought, extreme temperature and flood hazards alone, reveals that between 176 and 319 million extremely poor people will be living in the 45 countries most exposed to these hazards by 2030. This is a major concern as drought and flood hazards are among the most potent shocks when it comes to causing long- term impoverishment (source: ODI). Bangladesh i listed among the 11 countries most at risk of disaster-induced poverty.

    It is not natural disasters themselves as geophysical events that generate risk, but rather the state of human development, which shapes vulnerability to natural hazards and exacerbates their effects and consequences (IOM). The issues of migration, development and natural disasters interweave together in a myriad of complex ways. For example,
    migration can support development, e.g. through remittances, in-kind support, return of qualified nationals, but it can also can undermine development through brain drain from the affected region.

  11. I am interested in water management in Thailand. Since the country is prone to the floods especially in a monsoon season and drought in a dry period every year, this cycle largely affects Thai agricultural sectors and, in many parts, trigger temporary migrants as the locals migrate to find better opportunity in urban areas.

  12. Drought in the Sahel Region, Focus on Burkina Faso
    The Sahel region has been in the rencent years severely touched by droughts enhancing desertification.Therefore the farmers have been migrating to escape the low-productivity land that is not capable of providing a stable and secure food production anymore. I think it might be interesting in particular to look at the migration pattern of nomadic and semi-nomadic populations (the Fulani people) in the north of Burkina Faso.

  13. I am still hesitating between 2 ideas.
    The first – and I don’t know if it is actually relevant enough for the course- concerns the impact of refugees / migrants settlement (i.e refugee camp) on the environment and the vicious circle it creates, pushing sometimes refugees to migrate again. I found quite a lot of literature on the subject and think it would be quite interesting.
    Otherwise I would like to focus on the Salomon Islands, which were hit by a tsunami in 2013 and suffer from their position of small state island that could be affected by sea-rise level.

  14. I am interested in looking at floods in Bolivia. Since last October, heavy rains have killed at least 40 people and affected more than 37,500 families in 107 municipalities (one third of the country). The torrential rains used to start in November and it is expected to last until mid-March. The number of households affected is already five times higher than last year. About 100,000 head of cattle are threatened and some 6,000 hectares of crops have been destroyed. The country’s armed forces are leading the rescue and humanitarian aid.

    Bolivia is one of the poorest countries in Latin America and is considered one of the most vulnerable to Climate Change. Floods and diminishing water supply (the country relies on snow and ice deposits in the Andes) are among the main expected impacts.

  15. I would like to focus on the aftermath of Sandy in New-York and/or New-Jersey States.
    Of course most of the destroyed areas are now clean and many people regained their homes. However, many are still waiting for their house to be rebuild and are « displaced ».
    I am most interested in the public policies aspect, I will probably compare what happened in different locations (Long Island, Rockaways, New-Jersey, etc), and then focus on one particularly.
    For the latter, I wonder if a rather sociological approach can be accepted for the paper – i.e if I can get in touch with someone displaced.

  16. I would like to work the case of Nigeria and the people displaced after the floods in the 2013 rainy season. I want to study how the the crisis has been managed, compared to the emergency response to the 2012 flooding.

  17. I would like to study on the case of floods in Mexico (Hurricanes Manuel and Ingrid) on September 2013. These separate storms overwhelmed western Mexico with rain in September, triggering widespread flooding and landslides. More than 200,000 people were affected in Guerrero state alone. In Acapulco, five feet of mud overtook vehicles and destroyed homes. In total, 750 000 persons have been stranded.

    This study would aim to analyze in details the mitigation and adaptation strategies and Operation Plans put in place by the government drawing a parallel with prior Hurricanes operations (Katrina, Mitch…). A critical part will follow the latter trying to go beyond these actual policies in order to formulate new recommendations to tackle this recurrent phenomenon. To do so, interviews with scholars and policy-makers and academic research would be the key resources.

  18. I am trying to decide between two ideas as well…
    The first one is a sudden disaster, the floods in Kenya last year, that killed at least 74 people and rendered more than 99.000 people displaced. In that case I would focus on disaster risk reduction policies and displacement policies and management.
    The other idea I’m thinking about is a slow-onset event, deforestation and rainforest protection, how indigenous populations are coping with the changes, how in some cases indigenous peoples have created effective adaptation strategies using their extensive knowledge of the areas they inhabit and how protecting the rights of indigenous peoples who have traditionally lived in forests, is the best way to protect the rainforests. So in that case I would be focusing on adaptation strategies and policies, vulnerability as well as the protection of human rights.

  19. I would like to write « ecological migration » in Iner-Mogolia province of China.

    Due to over-grazing and deforestation happened decade ago, desertification and environmental degration became rampant in Inner-mogolia particularly in pastures and montain areas. The deterioration of ecosystem is catastrophic for nomads and indegous people because their livelihoods highly depend on herding, livestocks and tourism. Thus in 2013, the provincial goverment upgrated ecological migration as an important provincial strategy for poverty reduction. Some envrionmental endandgered counties have already implemented this huge project in 2013.

    I am panning to examine this migration strategy and associated polices, and then carry out an analysis on its resulting social, economical, clutural and political influlences induced by this « strategic » migration.

  20. I would like to studying the Colorado wildfires during the summer of 2013, which were the most destructive in the state’s history due to unusually dry conditions paired with record-high temperatures. Hundreds of structures were destroyed, thousands of people were temporarily evacuated, and some communities were destroyed. I plan to examine both the policy responses, which thus far have focused on small measures rather than any significant reforms or new initiatives. From a social perspective I am interested in looking at how people live in communities that face evacuations, sometimes multiple times, and how communities rebuild.

    As a second option I would be interested in looking at the drought in the Sahel region, with a particular focus on Niger, which in recent years has faced not the only encroaching desertification of the Sahara, but also destructive floods during the rainy season.

  21. The 2013 winter season in Colombia started in March and lasted until August. More than 200 000 people were affected and some 2000 lost their home. The most affected departments were the Choco, located in the Pacific coast of the country and the Putumayo, located near the border with Ecuador.
    Colombia has been facing these floods for the past years (the major floods of 2010 were news for several months and generated a great amount of internal displacement). I would like to study how the country has build a policy for these migrants and how these policies differ from those that seek to adress the problem of conflict-related internally displaced people (Colombia being the country in the world with most internally displaced people).

  22. I’d like to work on the migrations and current consequences that followed the 2010 earthquake in Haiti.
    My second choice would be the consequences of the September floods in Colorado.

  23. I would like to write on the case of Urumia lake, in Iran. Lake Urmia is situated between the East Azerbaijan and West Azerbaijan provinces of Iran. It is the largest lake in the Middle East and the third largest salt lake in the world. The lake was registered as a Biosphere Reserve by UNESCO and listed as a wetland of international importance under the 1971 Ramsar Convention, Lake Urmia accommodates one of the world’s richest biodiversity. More than 210 species of birds, such as flamingos, pelicans, spoonbills, and gulls, as well as many species of reptiles, amphibians and mammals, such as yellow deer inhabit the lake and the surrounding riparian area.
    Unfortunately, the lake has been disappearing rapidly due to lack of water management, exploitation of underground water, construction of more than 25 dams over the rivers that fed into the lake and political aims of the local government to displace ethnic minorities who leave in that area. The disappearance of the lake has led into migration of more than 50 surrounding villages due to lack of water for agriculture and fear of salt storms. A crisis which threatens the lives of 6 million people, and affects the lives of 76 million people in the area, based on a recent United Nations Environmental Program (UNEP) report.

  24. I’d like to look at the drought and cross border migrations affecting Angola and Namibia, but am also considering the floods in Mozambique

  25. Hello,

    I am really not sure thta would be a relevant topic, but I am interested in working about the floods that happened in Burma last summer. It displaced several thousand people, and Burmese government is not known for being helpful to its population. Since I know some people there, I think I may access not-so-hardly to some information.
    Otherway, I’m also looking at Pacific Islands, and what thy’re doing to prepare themselves to mirate. (Quite Sophie’s topic actually.)
    Another idea is to join Justyna on Typhoon Phailin.

    Still wondering… just before class.


  26. I would like to write my paper about the drought in the south of Angola and the problems with the government’s response policies. The situation was quite different in Namibia, so it would be interesting to look at why the response policies in Angola were so slow and how the people are affected

  27. I would like to write my paper on the floods that struck Sudan and South Sudan in August of last year. OCHA estimates that around 800,000 people were affected across both countries in what were the heaviest rains for more than 25 years, which also followed on from heavy floods in 2012 that affected some 240,000 in Sudan. I thought it may be interesting to to look at how the response of the GoS differed this year, to compare the responses in both countries and consider the coordination between them given the tensions that exist and the fact that they already have some of the highest numbers of displaced populations as it is.

  28. The 2013/2014 Winter Floods in Southern England: Resilient Communities or “Re-traumatisation by bureaucracy”?

    Abstract: The winter floods in the UK were some of the worst in living history. The South of England, experiencing record-breaking rainfall, was severely hit. Therefore, although flooding took place throughout the country, this case study will focus on displacement in Southern England, and three regions in particular: West Sussex in the South-East, and Somerset and Cornwall in the South-West. The interplay of administrative bodies at different regional levels has been particularly important. Whilst flood response is organised at a regional (county) level, local and national political and community forces have had a huge influence in shaping both direct response as well as policy impacts. Interviews conducted with experts at various administrative levels, as well as those directly affected by the flooding will inform this study.

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