Migration Seminar: Migration, Immobility and Displacement Outcomes Following Extreme Events

Prof. Richard Black, Sussex Centre for Migration Research, University of Sussex

There is growing international concern at the rise in the severity of impact and frequency of extreme environmental events, potentially as a manifestation of global environmental change. There is a widely held belief that this trend could be linked with a future rise in the migration or displacement of human populations. However, recent approaches to migration influenced by environmental change call into question the notion that migration can be ascribed in a singular way to particular environmental causes or events. This paper undertakes a systematic review of evidence on population movements associated with weather-related extreme events. The paper demonstrates that in the face of extreme environmental events, it is important to distinguish between three outcomes – migration, displacement, and immobility – each of which interact and respond to multiple drivers. It also proposes a further insight: that both those who move, and those who do not move, may find themselves trapped and vulnerable in the face of such extreme events. A review of evidence suggests that short-term displacement that goes hand-in-hand with loss of life, destruction of property and economic disruption poses significant risks not because it is ‘environmental migration’, but because it represents a failure of adaptation to environmental change.

About the speaker
Professor Richard Black is Head of the School of Global Studies at Sussex University. From 2009-11, Richard Black served as Chair of the Lead Expert Group for a Foresight project on 'Migration and Global Environmental Change', within the Government Office for Science. In 2009, he was on the advisory board of the civil society days for the Global Forum on Migration and Development. Richard Black has also worked as a consultant for a number of international organisations, including the United Nations Development Programme, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees and the European Training Foundation. Richard Black's work focuses on the study of international migration, including forced migration and post-conflict return, and related social, economic and environmental transformations. Together with colleagues at Sussex and elsewhere, he has recently been involved in developing new approaches to the understanding of the consequences of climate change for migration patterns globally. He is also actively researching and writing on the development of public policy on migration and poverty, especially in poor countries, and on immigrant integration in the UK, particularly relating to recent East European and African migrations. Work on migration and poverty is linked to the Migrating out of Poverty research consortium, which is led from Sussex, and also to an EU-funded project on Migration from Africa to Europe (MAFE), led by INED, Paris.

Venue: Conference Room, UNU-MERIT building

Date: 19 June 2012

Time: 12:30 - 13:30


UNU-MERIT