Free Movement Agreements & Climate-Induced Migration: A Caribbean Case Study
Climate-induced migration is a global challenge. Climate change intensifies the frequency and severity of disasters, thereby increasing the number of people displaced by extreme weather events. Adverse climate change impacts are already exacerbating patterns of human mobility, and will do so in greater magnitude in the future. Yet no comprehensive framework governs climate-induced migration, and international law guarantees no protection to climate migrants who fall outside the definition of international refugee law. Given this protection gap, policy solutions that address climate-induced migration are critical. This paper proposes Free Movement Agreements (FMAs) as a protection framework for climate-induced migration in the absence of a governing legal framework and guaranteed legal rights. FMAs are provisions within (sub-)regional trade agreements that liberalize the movement of people between participating states. Two Caribbean FMAs within the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) and Organisation for Eastern Caribbean States (OECS) provided people displaced during the 2017 Atlantic Hurricane Season rights of entry, work, and resettlement. Given that 120 countries worldwide participate in FMAs, FMAs could be useful in other regional contexts. FMAs are particularly well-suited to address the climate-induced migration protection gap because they grant access to territory and safety regardless of the drivers of movement, which are often difficult to disaggregate. FMAs also provide a regional response to a regional challenge, build economic resilience at the structural and individual level, and are more easily amended than global multilateral agreements.
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