Refugee Status Determination in the Context of 'Natural' Disasters and Climate Change: A Human Rights-Based Approach

Research output: ThesisDoctoral Thesis (monograph)


This thesis is concerned with refugee status determination (RSD) in the context of ‘natural’ disasters and climate change. Considering evidence that the legal predicament of people who seek recognition of refugee status in this connection has been inconsistently addressed by judicial bodies in leading refugee law jurisdictions, and identifying theoretical as well as doctrinal impediments to a clear and principled application of international refugee law in this connection, the thesis asks the question ‘in what kinds of circumstances may a person establish, within the meaning of Article 1A(2) of the 1951 Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees and its 1967 Protocol, a well-founded fear of being persecuted for a Convention reason in the context of ‘natural’ disasters and climate change?’

Arguing that RSD cannot safely be performed without a clear understanding of the relationship between natural hazards and human agency, the thesis draws insights from disaster anthropology and political ecology that see discrimination as a contributory cause of people’s differential exposure and vulnerability to disaster-related harm. This theoretical framework, combined with insights derived from the review of existing doctrinal and judicial approaches, prompts a critical revision of the dominant human rights-based approach to being persecuted, which is argued to be event-based and preoccupied with the nature of the harm, rather than the discriminatory context in which exposure and vulnerability arise. A novel human rights-based interpretation of the refugee definition is adopted and applied in answer to the research question.


Research areas and keywords

Subject classification (UKÄ) – MANDATORY

  • Law


  • Human Rights, Public International Law, Climate Change, Interpretation, Persecution, Well-Founded Fear, Discrimination, Refugee, Disaster
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
Supervisors/Assistant supervisor
  • Gregor Noll, Supervisor
  • Stern, Rebecca, Assistant supervisor, External person
Thesis sponsors
  • European Refugee Fund
Award date2018 May 22
Place of PublicationLund
  • Lund University (Media-Tryck)
Print ISBNs978-91-7753-641-3
Electronic ISBNs978-91-7753-642-0
Publication statusPublished - 2018 Apr 24
Publication categoryResearch

Bibliographic note

Defence details Date: 2018-05-22 Time: 10:15 Place: Pufendorfsalen, Juridiska institutionen, Lilla Gråbrödersgatan 3C, Lund External reviewer(s) Name: Foster, Michelle Title: Professor Affiliation: University of Melbourne ---

Related research output

Matthew Scott, 2015, Seeking asylum in the European Union: Selected protection issues raised by the second phase of the Common European Asylum System. Bauloz, C., Ciger, M., Singer, S. & Stoyanova, V. (eds.). Martinus Nijhoff Publishers

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingBook chapter

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