An Alternative Home? ASEAN and Pacific Environmental Migration



An Alternative Home? ASEAN and Pacific Environmental Migration

ASEAN is in a unique position to push for heightened global awareness and action for the vulnerable Pacific populations facing the possibility of relocation. Yet, it is strangely silent on the issue. ASEAN has both moral and legal obligation to not to turn its back on its Pacific neighbours. Morally, ASEAN – or at least most of it – is part of the western fringes of the Pacific region. It is proximate to many Pacific nations, and it has both the resources and landmass to help: two of the world’s largest archipelagos are ASEAN members. The obligations of humanity and justice require larger and more developed states aid and assist their more vulnerable neighbours. Legally, ASEAN may learn from the African Union (AU) experience. While AU accepted the UN Refugee Convention definition of ‘refugee,’ it expanded it to include those compelled to leave their country owing to ‘events seriously disturbing public order.’ Many scholars believe this includes the environmentally displaced.
ASEAN can choose to take on the easy path of insularity and parochialism as regards the looming issue on environmental migration, or it can take the high road by transforming itself into a dynamic regional actor pushing for clear policies on how to address it. Displacements are by nature traumatic and carry with them the impoverishments of landlessness, joblessness, homelessness, marginalization, increased morbidity and mortality, food insecurity, loss of access to common property resources, and social disarticulation. ASEAN can do much to help its vulnerable neighbors. As a bloc, it is a strong voice that can speak to the larger international community asking it to help address the issue.

Full Text:



Associated Press 2010, Haiti Raises Earthquake Toll to 230, 000. The Washington Post.

ASEAN (Association of Southeast Asian Nations) 2007, Charter of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, signed on 20 November 2007.

ASEAN Regional Forum 2010, ASEAN Regional Forum Documents Series 2006 -2009, ASEAN Secretariat, Jakarta.

Australia, Senate Select Committee Report 2004, The Senate Select Committee Report on Ministerial Discretion in Migration Matters, Commonwealth of Australia.

Australia, 1995, Torres Strait Treaty Australia-Papua New Guinea, article 11(1), Australian Treaty Series 1985 No 4.

Australian Law Reports 1996, Ozmanian v. Minister for Immigration Local Government and Ethnic Affairs, ALR 103, p. 137.

Australian Law Reports 1998, Re Bedlington and Another: Ex parte Chong, ALR 436, p. 157.

Barker, J. 2000, 'Hurricanes and Socioeconomic Development on Niue Island', Asia Pacific Viewpoint, vol. 41, no.2.

Barnett, J. & Adger, W. N. 2001, Climate Dangers and Atoll Countries, Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research, Working Paper No. 9.

Campbell, J. & Bedford, R. 2012, 'Oceania', in Piguet, E. and Laczko, R (eds), People on the Move in a Changing Climate: Comparing the Impact of Environmental Change on Difference Regions of the World, Springer.

Campbell, J., Goldsmith, M. et al. 2005, Community Relocation as an Option for Adaptation to the Effects of Climate Change and Climate Variability in Pacific Island Countries (PICs), Asia-Pacific Network for Global Change Research.

Cernea, M. 2000, Risks and Reconstruction: Experiences of Resettlers and Refugees. World Bank, Washington, D.C.

Cernea, M. & McDowell, C. 2000, Risks and reconstruction: Experiences of Resettlers and Refugees. The World Bank, Washington, D.C.

Connell, J. 2003, 'Losing Ground? Tuvalu, the Greenhouse Effect and the Garbage Can', Asia-Pacific Viewpoint, vol.44, no.2.

Davies, S. 2008, Legitimizing Rejection: International Refugee Law in Southeast Asia, Martinus Nijhoff, Boston.

de Moor, N. 2010, Temporary Labour Migration for Victims of Natural Disasters: The Case of Colombia, paper prepared for UNU-EHS Summer Academy on Social Vulnerability, Hohenkammer, Germany, 25-31 July 2010.

Edwards, A. 2006, 'Refugee Status Determination in Africa', African Journal of International and Comparative Law, vol.14, no.2.

Elliot, L. 2012, Climate Change and Migration in Southeast Asia: Responding to a New Human Security Challenge, Asia Security Initiative Policy Series, Working Paper No. 20, February 2012.

Finnish Aliens Act 2009, Finnish Aliens Act, Ch. 6 s.109 (1).

Frost, F. 1980, 'Vietnam, ASEAN and the Indochina Refugee Crisis', Southeast Asian Affairs, 1980, pp. 347-367.

Gray, C. 2010, Environmental Refugees or Economic Migrants?, Population Reference Bureau, Washington, D.C.

Holland, S. 2009, Indonesia's Rent-an-Island Answer to Climate Change, ABC News, 3 June 2009.

Howorth, R. 2005, Islands, Isolation and Vulnerability, Know Risk, Tudor Rose Publications and the International Strategy for Disaster Reduction, Leicester.

ICCPR 1966, International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (adopted 16 Dec 1966, entered into force 23 March 1976) 999 UNTS 171

ICESCR 1966, International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (adopted 16 December 1966, entered into force 3 January 1976) 993 UNTS 3 (ICESCR) art 11.

IOM 2009, Migration, Climate Change and the Environment:International Organization for Migration Policy Brief, International Organization for Migration.

IPCC 1990, First Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.

Kelman, I. 2006, 'Island security and disaster diplomacy in the context of climate change', Les Cahiers de la Securité, vol.63, pp. 61-94.

Kirsch, S. 2001, 'Lost Worlds: Environmental Disaster, Culture Loss and the Law', Current Anthropology, vol. 42, no.2.

Kolmannskog, V. 2009, To what extent can existing forms of legal and operational protection apply to climate change-related displacement in general and cross-border displacement in particular? RSC Workshop on Environmental Change and Migration, University of Oxford.

Laczko, F. & . Collett, E. 2005, 'Assessing the tsunami's effects on migration, Migration Information Source, Migration Policy Institute.

Linklater, A. 1977, Obligations Beyond the State, PhD Thesis, the London School of Economics and Political Science.

Locke, J. 2009, 'Climate change-induced migration in the pacific region: Sudden crisis and long-term developments', The Geographical Journal, vol. 175, no.3.

McAdam, J. and Saul, B. 2008, An Insecure Climate for Human Security? Climate-Induced Displacement and International Law, Sydney Centre Working Paper 4.

McAdoo, B., Moore, A. et al. 2009, 'Indigenous knowledge and the near field population response during the 2007 Solomon Islands tsunami', Natural Hazards, vol.48, no.1, pp.73-83.

Meisl, C., S. Safaie, et al. 2006, 'Housing reconstruction in Northern Sumatra after the December 2004 Great Sumatra Earthquake and Tsunami', Earthquake Spectra, vol.22, no. 3)

Millar, I. 2007, 'There's no place like home: Human displacement and climate change', Australian International Law Journal, vol.14, no. 71.

Moore, E. & Smith, J. 1995, 'Climate change and migration from Oceania: Implications for Australia, New Zealand and the United States of America', Population and Environment, vol. 17, no.2.

New Zealand Citizenship Act 1977 Art. 29, sec. 1 (Cook Islands), 2 (Niue) and 3 (Tokelau), Citizenship Act 1977, 061 Commenced: 1 January 1978.

OAU 1969, Organisation of African Unity Convention Governing the Specific Aspects of Refugee Problems in Africa, adopted on 10 September 1969 and entered into force 20 June 1974. Art 1 (2)

Opeskin, B. 1995, 'Foreign Aid in a Bounded World, An Appraisal of the Universalistic Moral Tradition', Bulletin of the Australian Society of Legal Philosophy1995, no.6.

Opeskin, B. 1996, 'The Moral Foundations of Foreign Aid', World Development, vol. 24, no. 1, pp 21-44.

Opeskin, B. and T. MacDermott 2009, 'Resources, population and migration in the Pacific: Connecting Islands and Rim', Asia Pacific ViewPoint vol. 50, no.3.

Ozerdem, A. 2010, 'The 'responsibility to protect' in the context of natural disasters: another excuse for interventionism? Nargis Cyclone, Myanmar', Conflict, Security and Development, vol.10, no.5, pp. 693-713.

Parry, R. L. 2006, Drowning Worlds. The Times, 21 December.

Pernetta, J. 1992, 'Impacts of climate change and sea-level rise on small island states: National and international responses', Global Environmental Change, vol. 2, no. 1.

Rawls, J. 1971, A Theory of Justice, Harvard University Press, Cambridge, Mass.

Roy, P. & Connell, J. 1991, 'Climatic change and the future of atoll states', Journal of Coastal Research, vol.74, pp. 1069 ff.

Sen, A. 2009, The Idea of Justice, Penguin Books.

Singer, P. 1972, 'Famine affluence and morality', Philosophy and Public Affairs, vol.1, no.3, 1, pp 229-243.

Smith, D. & Vivekananda, J. 2007, A Climate of Conflict: the Links Between Climate Change, Peace and War, International Alert, London.

Sriskandarajah, D. 2008, 'Changing climate, changing policies', Forced Migration Review, vol. 31, no.6.

Stein, B. 1979, 'The Geneva Conferences and the Indochinese Refugee Crisis', International Migration Review, vol 13, no. 4.

Stein, B. 1997, Regional Efforts to Address Refugee Problems, paper presented at the 1997 Annual Meeting of the International Studies Association, Toronto, 21 March 1997.

Suhrke, A. 1981, 'Indochinese Refugees: Impact on ASEAN and U.S. Policy', Contemporary Southeast Asia, vol. 3 no. 1.

Swedish Aliens Act 2006, Swedish Aliens Act, Ch 4, s.2(3).

Taylor, S. 1995, 'Soveriegn Power at the Border', Public Law Review, vol. 55.

UDHR 1948, Universal Declaration of Human Rights, art 3, United Nations.

UN Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights1995, General Comment No. 12, States and International Organizations, U.N. Doc. No. E/C. 12/1995/5

UN General Assembly 2008, United Nations General Assembly, 63rd session, 9th plenary meeting (25 September 2008) UN Doc A/63/PV.9, Mr Marcus Stephen, President of the Republic of Nauru.

UNHCR 1978, United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, Draft Summary Report: Consultative Meeting with Interested Governments on Refugees and Displaced Persons in Southeast Asia, Geneva 11-12 December 1978, HCR/50B/15/78

UNHCR 2009, Forced Displacement in the Context of Climate Change: Challenges for States under International Law. 6th session of the Ad Hoc Working Group on Long Term Cooperative Action under the Convention (AWG-LCA 6)12, Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees.

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, Department of Homeland Security, Humanitarian Parole, Requirements for Parole, available at & vgnextchannel=accc3e4d77d73210VgnVCM100000082ca60aRCRD (last visited 26 September 2012.)

US Citizenship and Immigration Services 2010, Special Humanitarian Parole Program for Haitian Orphans Draws to a Close at Request of Haitian Government, USCIS.

US Compact of Free Association Act 2003, art. IV, sec 141 (A)(1)(2)(3), U.S. Public Law 108-188.

Watson, R. 2000, Presentation of the Chair of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change at the Sixth Conference of Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, November 13, 2000,, last visited 2 February 2013

Yuen, B. and L. Kong 2009, 'Climate change and urban planning in Southeast Asia', Sapiens Revues, vol. 2, no. 3.

Zagor, M. 2010, 'Playing God Ministerial discretion in migration law', Legaldate, vol.3.

Zilbershats, Y. 2002, The Human Right to Citizenship: Free Movement, Forced Migration, and Human Security, Transnational Publishers.



Share this article: