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Climate Migration in Latin America: A Future ‘Flood of Refugees’ to the North?

The Mexico-United States border

Source: Council on Hemispheric Affairs

Release of a new research paper by COHA Research Fellow Alexandra Deprez

Washington DC, 22 February 2010 - This Council on Hemispheric Affairs research paper, by COHA Research Fellow Alexandra Deprez, has been under preparation for a year. In it, she brilliantly synthesizes current developments regarding environmentally-driven human migration –and more specifically, migration caused by the environmental manifestations of anthropogenic climate change– which are capable of exposing their potential harmful effects in Central and South America, as well as the Caribbean. Although this region has received far less media attention and academic focus than Western Africa, South East Asia or the Pacific Islands, it certainly houses the climate and non-climate factors that could cause mass human displacement as a result of a strategy threat to the safety and welfare of a strategic threat to the safety and welfare of affected areas of sizable parts of the world.

The first section introduces the concept of environmentally-induced migration, expounding upon the current state of the debate surrounding it and the challenges it faces. This is followed by an examination of different climate processes and natural disasters as drivers of migration in Latin America. It also addresses non-climate factors such as poor governance, poverty, overpopulation, and unequal land distribution that can compound these migratory pressures.

The second section opens with a case study of Mexico, a country several reports have identified as a potential hotspot for environmentally-induced migration in Latin America, due to the confluence of climate and non-climate migration factors it houses. The relevance of this study is also increased due to Mexico’s position as the largest immigration feeder to the United States. The segment goes on to discuss larger developmental impacts of environmentally-induced migration in Latin America –such as the effects on regions of origin and destination, the health and security issues migrants face, and the debate between environment, migration and national security factors– before ending with a speculation of which potential actions the United States might eventually take to address what could be a looming problem.

To read the first part of the research paper, please go to the corresponding page the Council on Hemispheric Affairs.