Regional Paper on Global Governance of Environmental Mobility: Latin America & the Caribbean

By Ama Ruth Francis

Environmental events—including droughts, floods, hurricanes, sea level rise and earthquakes play a role alongside socioeconomic and political factors in triggering displacement, migration and planned relocation in Latin America and the Caribbean (LAC). LAC countries experience the strongest relationship between environmental hazards and migration in the world. From 2008 to 2019, there were more than 23 million reported incidents of internal displacement in the context of disasters linked to sudden- and slowonset hazards linked to disasters. LAC has developed a significant normative framework in response to environmental mobility, especially relative to other regions. In practice, LAC countries use regional refugee law, regional mobility agreements, and regular and exceptional migration categories in national immigration law to extend admission and stay to LAC nationals moving across borders in the context of climate change and disasters. In theory, other mechanisms also strengthen the normative framework, including visa-free travel and recognition of the principle of non-refoulement, although law and policy on internal environmental mobility needs further development. Grounded in principles of regional refugee law, regional integration, and national immigration law, LAC’s relatively robust normative framework already facilitates the movement of LAC nationals in the context of climate change and disasters, and demonstrates that existing legal tools are available for addressing environmental mobility.