Disasters linked to natural hazards can be rapid-onset, such as storms, earthquakes, drought, floods and volcanoes, or slow-onset, such as environmental degradation and temperature extremes. The frequency, intensity and duration of weather-related hazards are only likely to increase as a result of climate change. Although most mobility linked to these disasters will take place with countries, the potential for cross-border population movements as a consequence of these disasters has attracted considerable public attention and led to fierce debate among academics.

This project seeks to better understand both the empirical aspects of this strand of human mobility and the legal and policy responses of States. The project has focused particularly on the Americas, a region where these empirical dynamics and State responses are becoming increasingly evident. It illustrates how many countries in the Americas already use existing national immigration and refugee law to provide a novel humanitarian response to cross-border migrants affected by major disasters. The project has contributed directly to international, regional and national legal and policy efforts to promote a coherent response to cross-border mobility in this context.

Key publications and other outputs


Key institutional activities

  • RLI Working Group on Climate Change, Disasters and Displacement (created 2022)
  • RLI 11th annual seminar series on “Human Mobility, Natural Hazards and Policy Responses” (2020, with PDD)
  • Contribution to drafting South American Conference on Migration, Regional guidelines (2018, see above)
  • Contribution to drafting Regional Conference on Migration, Guidelines (2016, see above)
  • RLI/Nansen Initiative Inter-Governmental Workshop on “Temporary Humanitarian Protection for Natural Disasters in South America” (Government of Ecuador, Quito, 2015)

The work between 2012 and 2015 was supported by Economic and Social Research Council Future Research Leaders grant (PI: Cantor - ES/K001051/1) and carried out in partnership with the Nansen Initiative.