An individual or group of individuals who are stateless are not recognised as a national (or a citizen) of any state in the world. As a result, they lack legal recognition. Therefore, they may experience difficulty travelling as they do not have citizenship documents such as a current passport, and they may not be eligible to access education or healthcare services. They may also be prevented from marrying, and they do not have voting rights. Their cumulative experience is one of marginalisation and exclusion. According to Manly and Persaud (2009):
Stateless people are in many ways the ultimate ‘forgotten people’ and identification of statelessness remains a major challenge. Frequently, stateless persons live on the margins of society and are, almost by definition, ‘uncounted.’ (p. 7)
Statelessness can result from war, conflict, persecution and natural disasters (see Case Study 7.1). For some individuals and groups, statelessness is temporary, and they are able to return to their former residence, resuming their citizenship and nationality once the situation that caused them to flee has been resolved or its effects muted. Others however, may never be able to return to their home country. At the close of 2017, the UNHCR reported there were 3.9 million identified stateless individuals worldwide (UNHCR, 2018a, p. 51) (See Table 7.1). However, if we take into consideration unreported or unidentified stateless individuals, the UNHCR believes that the total number of stateless individuals worldwide is much higher, possibly in the vicinity of 10 million people (UNHCR, 2018a).
Stateless individuals experience heightened human insecurity. In addition to impinging on the above mentioned rights and facilities, statelessness increases an individual’s vulnerability to violence, rape, disease, starvation, gross human rights violations, and human trafficking for labour and sexual servitude. There have been attempts to provide legal frameworks around the protection of stateless peoples, beginning with the Nansen passport, issued by the League of Nations during the 1920s and 1930s to protect stateless refugees displaced by World War I. The UN followed up with the 1954 Convention relating to the Status of Stateless Persons and the 1961 Convention on the Reduction of Statelessness. Stateless individuals are also covered by the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (1948), and there are specific statements related to statelessness in both the Convention on the Rights of the Child (1989) and the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (1979). However, if we consider the large number of stateless individuals worldwide, and the persistently inadequate state responses to stateless persons, there currently does not appear to be an effective model for adequately responding to the human rights and human security needs of individuals outside of the state system (van Waas, 2009). Also, not all states worldwide are party to these conventions, so they do not uphold them or fulfil their responsibilities to stateless individuals who enter their state. Therefore, more work will need to be done in order to compel states to respond to issues of statelessness into the 21st century.
Case Study 7.1
The Rohingya people have lived in the Rakhine State in Myanmar (Burma) for centuries. However, as a predominantly Muslim population, their position within the modern state of Myanmar has been marred by anti-Muslim prejudice, discrimination, marginalisation, human rights violations, and statelessness (Ahsan Ullah, 2016).
Following changes to its citizenship laws in 1982, ethnicity in Myanmar became increasingly politicised (Beyrer & Kamarulzaman, 2017). The changes were introduced under the military dictator General Ne Win, who came to power in 1962 in a coup d’état. General Ne Win’s changes meant that citizenship became based on ethnicity, with categories of citizenship including citizens (predominantly Buddhist Burmans); associate citizens and naturalised citizens. Under Section 6 of the Act, Rohingyas should have been able to acquire citizenship under the categories of either associate or naturalised citizens (having previously held citizenship in Burma post 1948). However, lack of official documentation to prove their ancestry in Burma, meant they were denied citizenship and many Rohingyas became stateless peoples (Ahsan Ullah 2016). The resultant statelessness has meant that the Rohingyas have been denied civil and political rights for decades (Beyrer & Kamarulzaman, 2017).
Moreover, ethnicised politics has heightened insecurity for Rohingyas. There have been deliberately exclusive nationalist slogans such as ‘Burma for the Burmans,’ ‘to be Burman is to be Buddhist,’ and anti-Muslim riots targeting Rohingyas. In addition, in 1978 the Burmese military launched a campaign of ethnic cleansing against the Rohingya (and other ethnic minority groups), resulting in torture, murder and rape being carried out against Myanmar’s Muslim population (Ahsan Ullah, 2016, p. 289). This was not the first time such violence against Rohingyas has occurred. There have been a number of expulsions of Rohingya from Burma to neighbouring countries, including in the late 1700s, early 1800s, the 1940s, 1978, 2012 and in 2015. Regional history and colonial experiences coalesce into a potent mix when it comes to Myanmar and this has contributed to significant difficulties in Myanmar’s sense of national unity as a multi-ethnic and multi-religious society. Put simply, to be Burmese and to be Buddhist simply does not reflect the ethnic and religious make-up of the state, despite strong desires from the state’s pro-Buddhist agitators.
The most recent outbreak of violence and expulsion of the Rohingyas began in late 2016, continuing into 2017. Following attacks on police stations and an army base in October 2016 by the armed ethno-nationalist insurgent group the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army, Myanmar’s armed forces launched a brutal retaliatory campaign against not only the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army but the Rohingya civilian population of Myanmar. Satellite imagery and first-hand accounts by those fleeing signal there has been widespread burning of Rohingya homes and communities, threats of violence to those who have not immediately fled to Bangladesh, torture, extrajudicial killings, and systematic rape of Rohingya girls and women by security forces (UNHCR, 2018a; Beyrer & Kamarulzaman, 2017).
Known worldwide as the ‘Rohingya Refugee Crisis’, by the end of 2017 the number of Rohingya forced to flee the Rakhine State numbered 655,500 (UNHCR 2018a). This expulsion constitutes ethnic cleansing. It has been estimated that of those who have fled, 25% are women, 20% are men, and 55% are children (UNHCR, 2018a). In his assessment of the situation, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi (cited in UNHCR, 2018a, p. 25) concluded:
Nowhere is the link between statelessness and displacement more evident than for the Rohingya community of Myanmar, for whom denial of citizenship is a key aspect of the entrenched discrimination and exclusion that have shaped their plight for decades.
Myanmar’s State Counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi has been strongly criticised for her ongoing silence on the persecution of the Rohingyas and the resultant refugee crisis. There have also been strong calls for her to be stripped of her 1991 Nobel Peace Prize, which was awarded for her “non-violent struggle for democracy and human rights” (Nobel Foundation 2018). According to Olav Njoelstad, the secretary of the Norwegian Nobel Committee, Aung San Suu Kyi will not be stripped of her prize as each award is for the achievements of the recipient up until it is awarded (cited in Reuters, 2018). Furthermore, the rules regulating the Nobel prizes do not contain avenues for the withdrawal of previously awarded prizes. In the meantime, the State Counsellor’s silence on the Rohingya refugee crisis continues and there are now more than 930,000 Rohingya refugees living in Bangladesh (UNHCR, 2018a, p. 24).
Currently, responses to statelessness often lack political will and effective state-based solutions. This has resulted in increased human insecurity and prolonged suffering for those affected. According to Manly and Persaud (2009, p. 7) the UNHCR cannot replace the state, largely because of the continuing dominance of the state in an international structure that is predominantly shaped by realism. Therefore, durable state-based solutions are necessary in dealing with this humanitarian crisis, ones that focus on human rights and human security. States are the first stage in the prevention of statelessness. This requires them to respect and uphold the human rights and security of their citizens. In areas where stateless citizens make up much of the social fabric of a state, citizenship campaigns that provide citizenship to such peoples should be undertaken.
In 2003, 190,000 Indian Tamils were finally provided citizenship in Sri Lanka (Manly & Persaud, 2009). The Indian Tamils are also known as ‘Estate Tamils’ or ‘plantation Tamils’ because they were brought to Sri Lanka from India by the British as bonded labour in the 19th century to work on tea and coffee plantations (Manly & Persaud, 2009). Accounting for approximately five percent of the overall population, Indian Tamils have long been stateless peoples in Sri Lanka. While there had been an earlier granting of citizenship to some, it took until 2003 for all remaining Indian Tamils to gain citizenship, thereby removing their statelessness. The role of colonialism in the region, and forced labour migration as part of colonial control, is important here as it left the Indian Tamils in a situation of statelessness, and significant human insecurity, for generations. Therefore, it is important for us to consider how historical events continue to impact the human security of populations globally, particularly those in the global south.
Following formal recognition of their citizenship within Sri Lanka, Indian Tamils now have access to services and support provided by the state, and they now have political and voting rights, which were previously denied to them. For the Sri Lankan state, it can now refocus its efforts on the inclusion of the Indian Tamils as citizens of their state, not excluding/ overlooking them on the basis of their lack of citizenship or perceived illegality. It has also eased some of the ethnic tensions that existed among the wider Sri Lankan community, which had seen strong cleavages based on ethnicity, caste and citizenship status (or lack thereof) between the Sinhalese majority, the Sri Lankan Tamils (who were already recognised citizens of Sri Lanka), and the Indian Tamils (Shastri, 1999; Hollup, 1992). This example demonstrates an effective state-based response to statelessness within host state borders.
Scholars such as Steiner (2009) see amnesties, that is, the granting of citizenship to stateless persons within a host state, as a tangible solution to state concerns over illegal immigrants. Steiner posits quite succinctly “[a] final way to get rid of illegal immigrants is to make them legal” (2009, p. 39). In fact, the US has used amnesty programmes in the past to legalise illegal immigrants to the extent that by 2000, 5.7 million illegal immigrants had been legalised via such amnesties (Steiner, 2009). However, more recent efforts to provide similar amnesty programmes have not been supported. The US and Sri Lanka are not alone in passing such amnesty programmes in the past. According to Steiner, since the 1990s Greece, Spain and Italy have all passed amnesty programmes to help solve the problems associated with the marginalisation and illegality of immigrants within their borders, many of whom are contributors to the state’s labour market. Furthermore, by granting such stateless persons citizenship rights through amnesties, their labour can be unionised (as they are no longer illegal workers in a black market trade). This is beneficial not only to the formerly stateless workers, who are often victims of exploitative work conditions, but it also ensures more fair and equitable working conditions for all workers as it removes the threat of labour displacement and wage depression, which can result in areas of a large black market labour force.
We now turn our examination to refugees and asylum seekers. These groups constitute a significant proportion of the world’s stateless people. They often face insurmountable obstacles in their quest for human security, and we will consider a range of factors relevant to them as individuals or groups outside of the state system.
Refugees and Asylum Seekers
It was the League of Nations that first articulated (albeit limited) protection rights for refugees. Conflicts in the early part of the 20th century saw many people in need of sanctuary as they fled violence and persecution. When the League was dissolved in 1946, it was replaced by the newly established UN. In an attempt to respond to the huge numbers of people displaced by the Second World War, the UN appointed the UNHCR in 1950, replacing the League’s International Refugee Organisation. Also at that time, the UN set about to codify what constituted a refugee and what the international society’s obligations to refugees should be. In 1951, the Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees was finalised and approved by the United Nations. It came into force in 1954. According to the original Convention, a refugee is any person who:
owing to well-founded fear of being persecuted for reasons of race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group or political opinion, is outside the country of his nationality and is unable or, owing to such fear, is unwilling to avail himself of the protection of that country; or who, not having a nationality and being outside the country of his former habitual residence as a result of such events, is unable or, owing to such fear, is unwilling to return to it. (UNHCR, 2010, Article 1 (A) (2) 1951 Convention, p. 14)
The 1967 Protocol Relating to the Status of Refugees made slight, but important, amendments to the original convention. The ultimate goal of the Protocol was to widen the scope of the convention to make it a more objective definition representing the range of threats that had emerged since the refugee convention was first envisioned. The Convention also inspired the codification of other regional conventions including the 1969 Organisation of African Unity Refugee Convention in Africa and the 1984 Latin American Cartagena Declaration. However, these conventions have been criticised for not adequately including gender-based vulnerabilities such as female genital mutilation, laws that prohibit or punish gay and lesbian sexual orientations, women and girls being denied education or the ability to work outside of the home, for example, all of which may cause people subjected to such persecutions to flee their country, seeking asylum elsewhere. Currently, these types of issues are examined on a case-by-case basis, which does not inspire confidence that people in these groups will be protected.
The 1951 Convention and the 1967 Protocol, known collectively as the Refugees Convention, are important as they identified that foreign nationals seeking asylum must be granted the same types of human rights as those normally experienced by citizens of a state. Therefore, the statelessness of refugees does not abolish their human rights. In addition, the international society of states must uphold those rights and protect refugees, regardless of their statelessness. The Convention recognises that this can only be achieved through international burden sharing, one that signatories of the Convention have committed to uphold.
There are currently 147 signatories to the Convention and/or Protocol, including both developed and developing states in the global north and the global south. By ratifying the Convention and/or Protocol, these governments have indicated their willingness to provide sanctuary to those fleeing persecution and to honour and uphold their human rights. If we consider the obligations of states to asylum seekers and refugees, and we contrast this with current state responses to asylum seekers and refugees, the following questions should be asked. Why are refugees and asylum seekers increasingly being viewed through the lens of illegality? What rights do they have to seek asylum? How do state responses to asylum seekers uphold or contravene their human rights and human security?
In recent years, refugee flows have attracted heightened attention from governments and citizens of many states around the world. Asylum seekers however, have also attracted significant attention. Asylum seekers are those fleeing persecution who have not yet been formally declared refugees by the UNHCR or other governing body. This is usually because they are unable to access a UNHCR camp near where they live and are therefore forced to flee persecution by crossing state borders, often without travel documents or travel permits. While this is also a right enshrined by the Refugees Convention, asylum seekers have increasingly been associated with ‘illegality’ and they are often wrongly viewed as being economic migrants, not refugees.
In 1995, the world refugee population peaked at more than 27 million. This is an unsurprising figure if we consider the events that were occurring around that time. The Cold War had recently ended, the USSR had broken up, and there was a revival in some areas of ethnic tensions, rivalry, nationalism and ultra-nationalism. The Persian Gulf War (1990-1991) had driven five million people to flee persecution. Throughout the 1990s, almost three million people fled persecution in the former Yugoslavia, and the Rwandan Genocide (1994) sent over two million refugees into neighbouring countries. In addition to these specific events, civil wars and instability throughout many areas of the world were also causing people to flee persecution in droves. Complicating the situation further was that the end of the Cold War meant that capitalist states no longer regarded there to be an ideological need to accept refugees, many of whom were from developing countries. This contrasted from previous policy positions, which on occasions had seen Cold War politics influence state acceptance of refugee flows, particularly if the refugees were from communist states (Human Security Centre, 2005).
|COUNTRY||NUMBER OF REFUGEES|
|Islamic Republic of Iran||979,400|
Following the 1995 peak, the numbers of refugees decreased to 15.4 million by the close of 2010 (UNHCR, 2011, p. 5). However, recent conflicts have increased numbers and at the close of 2017 the UNHCR (2018a, p. 13) estimated there were 25.4 million refugees worldwide (including 5.4 million Palestinian refugees who are under the care of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East). In addition, there were 3.1 million applications for asylum still under consideration and 40 million internally displaced people (IDP) (UNHCR, 2018a, pp. 3 & 33). The major refugee hosting countries at the close of 2017 were Turkey, followed by Pakistan, Uganda, Lebanon, the Islamic Republic of Iran, Germany, Bangladesh, Sudan, Ethiopia and Jordan (UNHCR, 2018a, p. 18) (see Table 7.2). The Syrian Arab Republic is the largest country of origin for current refugees (6.3 million people, almost one-third of all refugees), followed by Afghanistan, South Sudan, Myanmar (see Case Study 7.1), Somalia, Sudan, the Democratic Republic of Congo, the Central African Republic, Eritrea and Burundi (UNHCR, 2018a, p. 14) (see Table 7.3). What is important to note about these countries is that they are all areas of conflict, including sites in the ongoing War on Terror, or states that do not uphold human rights for their citizens. Human insecurity is rife in these states. Therefore, it is not surprising that their citizens have been forced to flee persecution.
|COUNTRY||NUMBER OF REFUGEES|
|Syrian Arab Republic||6.3 million|
|South Sudan||2.4 million|
|Democratic Republic of Congo||620,800|
|Central African Republic||545,500|
Asylum seekers are regularly incorrectly labelled in both political discourse and media reports as ‘illegal aliens/immigrant’ and ‘queue jumpers,’ and states such as the US, the UK and Australia have introduced mandatory detention as part of their processing procedures. Increasingly, refugees and asylum seekers are being viewed as security threats to both the state and its citizens. Post 9/11, tightened immigration controls and increasing xenophobia have led traditional safe havens to close their doors to refugees and asylum seekers. The human security and the human rights of refugees and asylum seekers are increasingly being challenged and overturned, and many asylum seekers and refugees face years in camps and detention centres before being granted sanctuary and citizenship rights (if these rights are in fact granted at all) by receiving states.
In Australia, the US and the UK, there has also been a tendency to view the current ‘refugee crisis’ and numbers of asylum seekers as rapidly increasing to widespread proportions, and that they are seeking to migrate to countries in the global north for purely economic reasons. The above statistics demonstrate that while numbers of refugees are increasing, they are increasing in places experiencing conflict, war and violence, and with the exception of Germany, they are mainly being hosted by other states in the global south. In addition, over the past few decades the US, the UK and Australia have all become increasingly focused on tightening border security, even when it comes to asylum seekers. These states hold the misperception that they are being ‘swamped’ by ‘waves’ of asylum seekers and refugees. However, this is simply not the case, and closer examination of refugee statistics above attest it is neighbouring states to the conflict or crisis that are shouldering the largest hosting responsibility (see Table 7.2 and Table 7.3).
|YEAR||NUMBER OF REFUGEES||NUMBER OF PEOPLE OF CONCERN|
|2000||12.1 million||21.8 million|
|2001||12.1 million||19.9 million|
|2002||10.5 million||20.8 million|
|2003||9.5 million||17 million|
|2004||9.5 million||19.5 million|
|2005||8.6 million||21 million|
|2006||9.8 million||32.8 million|
|2007||11.3 million||31.6 million|
|2008||10.4 million||34.4 million|
|2009||10.3 million||36.4 million|
|2010||10.5 million||33.9 million|
|2011||10.4 million||35.4 million|
|2012||10.4 million||35.8 million|
|2013||11.6 million||42.8 million|
|2014||14.3 million||54.9 million|
|2015||16.1 million||63.9 million|
|2016||17.1 million||67.7 million|
|2017||25.4 million||68.5 million|
Closer examination of refugee numbers demonstrates they have waxed and waned over the past seventeen years in direct correlation to global insecurity and areas of conflict (see Table 7.4). This is also evident when examining the number of ‘persons of concern,’ mainly comprising of internally displaced persons, stateless persons or people seeking asylum, over the same period. Overall, these figures demonstrate the correlation between human insecurity and population outflows, either inside the state (internal displacement) or across state borders as refugees and asylum seekers. If we reconsider the previously mentioned major hosting states we see further evidence that a large flow of refugees from the global south to the global north is simply not reflected in current statistics on refugee flows. Instead, it is typically neighbouring states to the conflict that shoulder the heaviest population outflows.
Furthermore, if we compare states such as the US, the UK , and Australia  to Turkey, Pakistan and Uganda, the above figures demonstrate that the former states are receiving far fewer asylum seekers and refugees than the latter states. Also worrisome is that in Australia, failed attempts at asylum have seen asylum seekers facing deportation back to their former homes (see Case Study 7.2). Some failed asylum seekers have even committed suicide in detention, rather than be expelled from Australia and forced to return home. Non-refoulement, which is the principle that people should not be sent back to countries where they face persecution, has become binding international law.
Case Study 7.2
Michael, a Bakango man from Angola, was interviewed by researchers investigating examples of the Australian government deporting asylum seekers on the grounds that they did not qualify as refugees. He told them he had fled Angola as he was well-known for having opposed the Angolan government during the civil war and for refusing to act as a government spy. With the help of a friend, Michael fled Angola by plane, claiming asylum upon arrival.
He was interviewed by a representative from the Department of Immigration and Multicultural and Indigenous Affairs (DIMIA), and then placed in mandatory detention for the next three and a half years. During his detention, Michael took part in a protest at the detention centre, and was then sent to a prison for a period of time. While in prison he was raped twice, before being sent back to the detention centre.
The Federal Court ruled twice in favour of Michael fulfilling the categorisation of being a refugee in need of protection. However, on both occasions the Refugee Review Tribunal rejected these decisions. With only one day’s notice, Michael was deported from Australia in 2000. DIMIA sent Michael to South Africa where they engaged the services of a private company, P&I (Protecting and Indemnity) to repatriate him. P&I first tried to send him to the Democratic Republic of Congo, but Michael refused to travel and he was then held in a cell at the airport. Michael demanded to see the Angolan Ambassador, who confirmed that he was in fact Angolan, but the Angolan officials who visited Michael told him he should return to Australia as his safety could not be guaranteed should he return to Angola. Although Amnesty International tried to help Michael, the Australian government refused his requests for assistance.
Michael was held in the cell for three days before being repatriated to Angola. Upon his return he was immediately incarcerated for being anti-government, and for fleeing Angola and claiming refugee status in a foreign country. Before leaving Australia, a friend had given Michael some money. After three months in jail he was able to bribe a prison guard to allow him to escape. He took refuge in a remote part of Angola, away from his hometown. The same friend then provided further assistance to Michael and he was able to go to another global north country. This country accepted his claim for refugee status after just six months and when interviewed, Michael was adjusting to life in a safe location, he was learning to become a brick layer, and he was hoping to be reunited with his wife and child who still lived in Angola, through a family reunification scheme.
Michael’s story demonstrates a failure by the Australian government to not only uphold its obligations as a signatory of the Refugees Convention, but also to recognise decisions made in courts of law that rule in favour of an asylum seeker proving they are a legitimate refugee. It also demonstrates that Australia has contravened the non-refoulement principles of the Convention. The report that contains Michael’s account found that of the 40 rejected and deported asylum seekers that the researchers spoke to, only five were found to be living in safe circumstances. This does not represent a commitment to human rights or an honouring of Australia’s commitment to stateless peoples (Glendenning et al., 2004).
Over the past decade, Australia has faced increasing scrutiny due to the high rates of self-harm and suicide by asylum seekers in detention. After years of advocacy by human rights and refugee groups, and some prominent Australian politicians, in July 2011, the Commonwealth Ombudsman announced that an inquiry into the high rates of self-harm and suicide in detention would be undertaken. Despite the findings of inquiry, which recommended the maximum period of detention for asylum seekers should be 90 days and that “prolonged detention exacts a heavy toll on people, most particularly on their mental health and wellbeing” (Commonwealth of Australia, 2012, p. X), Australia maintains its tough stance towards asylum seekers, particularly irregular maritime arrivals. Excessive time spent in detention, numbering in the years rather than months or days, offshore processing, and documented sexual and physical abuse of detainees, as well as serious mental health issues resulting from detention including self-harm and suicide are features of Australia’s continuing treatment of asylum seekers. These practices reflect the enmeshment of Australia’s approach to asylum seekers with domestic politics, to successive governments wanting to prove their tough security credentials to domestic electorates by honing in on vulnerable asylum seekers (Archbold, 2015; Tazreiter, 2017). These practices also demonstrate that Australia is not upholding its responsibilities under the Refugees Convention.
The Commission on Human Security (2003) believes that solutions to refugee crises need to firstly consider if their former homeland has transitioned to peace and security. If this has occurred, refugees should be offered the option of voluntary repatriation and resettlement. In areas where this cannot be achieved, perhaps because conflict is ongoing or refugees feel unable to return to their former home, resettlement in a new state should be pursued. This requires cooperation from states to accept refugees into their overall immigration programme. All too often, the focus on refugees settles on their vulnerability and their perceived ‘burden’ to the state. While refugees face increased human insecurity before and during their escape from persecution, once they are provided sanctuary and citizenship in their new locale they should be considered a valuable and contributing member of that state and society. According to the Human Security Now report (Commission on Human Security, 2003), some of the areas that require attention by receiving states include:
establishing secure livelihoods [for refugees], protecting people against downside risks, reducing inequalities among communities, strengthening governance and respecting human rights. (p. 48)
If we consider Michael’s story from Case Study 7.2, after settling in a safe location, one that honoured his human rights and human security, Michael undertook employment training so he could become a settled member of his new state. Increasingly however, states are closing their doors to refugees. As previously mentioned, the post-9/11 political and security climate has seen states like the US, Canada and Australia restrict their intakes of refugees. In fact, the Commission on Human Security (2003, p. 48; Refugee Processing Centre, 2019) reported that the US refugee resettlement figures dropped from 69,886 in 2001 to just 27,131 in 2002 in the wake of the 9/11 attacks and the more rigorous security checks that resulted.
However, in addition to the above mentioned human insecurities and persecutions, which force people to flee their homes, the link between environmental insecurity and forced migration also warrants consideration. Myers and Kent (1995, p. 18) defined environmental refugees as “persons who no longer gain a secure livelihood in their traditional homelands because of what are primarily environmental factors of unusual scope.” They argued that should scientific predictions on the effects of a climate out of equilibrium come to pass, climate change could cause substantial increases in refugee, asylum seeker, and IDP numbers in affected areas.
People in low-lying atoll/island states throughout the Pacific have been identified as particularly vulnerable to rising sea levels. Similarly, people in other low-lying areas such as Haiti, Bangladesh, Vietnam and India (to name a few) are also expected to be affected by rising sea levels. However, climate change will also cause more lengthy and recurrent droughts (as has been witnessed in countries in the Sahel and Horn of Africa), desertification, more damaging and intensive cyclones/typhoons/hurricanes, and other climatic changes. Therefore, it is increasingly likely that environmental/climate change-induced migration will grow into the future, should environmental insecurity grow as anticipated. In spite of this, the UNHCR does not currently include environmental refugees into its mandate or definition of refugees, and there is ongoing debate over their status, or not, as refugees.
On the other hand, scholars such as Mortreux and Barnett (2009, p. 111) argue the impacts of climate change on populations may be less severe than expected. Their research has demonstrated that people “respond to events (such as climate change)” and that adaptation (adapting to rising sea levels for example) could mean that population flows may not be as numerous as currently predicted. While this is a fairly optimistic viewpoint of future scenarios for vulnerable populations, other scholars such as Urosevic (2009) believe that there must be more focused analysis of the plight, and inclusion, of environmental refugees in the existing UNHCR refugee mandate. According to Urosevic, the UNHCR is the logical organisation to respond to environmental refugees, and that a protocol, like the 1967 Protocol, should be passed so as to expand the Convention to specifically include environmental refugees. Such a protocol would be most pertinent in assuring the human security of affected and vulnerable populations, particularly those forced to flee as environmental refugees. This has not yet been achieved however, and the UNHCR acknowledges that environmental refugees are not covered by the existing Refugees Convention. This acknowledgement occurs alongside statements that the UNHCR expects both displacement and human insecurity to grow alongside increasing environmental insecurity worldwide.
At present, the UNHCR promotes planned environmental migration to be mainstreamed within climate change mitigation and adaptation policies (UNHCR, 2015, p. 12). This type of migration refers to vulnerable populations being relocated under planned migration strategies by the state in which they live, resulting in a forced internal displacement, but one that is planned, staged and carefully managed rather than an abrupt forced migration like what occurs during periods of conflict or sudden catastrophe. However, this is not an easy undertaking, especially for states within the global south. Furthermore, even with such a planned approach to migration, forced migration of any kind can lead to increased human insecurity and tensions between the migrating and receiving populations if resources are scarce or if numbers are significant, even if they reside within the same state.
In their examination of environmental migration in Papua New Guinea, Connell and Lutkehaus (2017) explored the forced migration of Manam Islanders within Papua New Guinea. Manam Island is located about 12 kilometres from the New Guinea mainland and it is an inhabited volcanic island. There have been many eruptions in the past, whereby Manam Islanders have temporarily evacuated to the mainland by canoe and as a result they had forged good relations with the coastal communities on the mainland. Such evacuations usually involved just a couple of affected villages (perhaps two or three out of the fifteen villages) to one occasion in 1957-1958 whereby the whole island had to evacuate. Furthermore, these evacuations were only temporary and the Manam Islanders returned to their island once the volcanic activity had subsided.
In 2004/2005, all 10,000 Manam Islanders were forced to suddenly evacuate the island following a major volcanic eruption. The length of time of their stay and their numbers overwhelmed the host population, leading to a significant drain on available resources, which strained relations. Within six months of their resettlement on the mainland, social tensions between the two groups began to increase, as did human insecurity, and violent conflicts led to some deaths. Even though volcanologists have identified the volcano to be an ongoing environmental hazard, by 2015 several thousand Manam Islanders had returned to Manam Island, despite it no longer receiving government support or facilities. They have been motivated to return, despite the dangers, due to a range of factors including kinship and traditional connections to their traditional land, the experiences of dislocation from their land and the inability to acclimate to mainland life which is very different to island life, right through to the ongoing tensions in the host communities on the mainland.
Further volcanic activity and eruptions could see more dislocation for returned Manam Islanders into the future. Together with supporting Manam Islanders who have stayed on the mainland, the plight of the returned Manam Islanders requires careful management by Papuan authorities. For our purposes, the Manam Island experience is useful in demonstrating that migrations like these, even when occurring within state borders, have the potential to exacerbate human insecurity among both evacuated and receiving populations. Therefore, prevention of the need for such relocation in the first place makes more sense than accepting such an outcome as a fait accompli. While this example was a sudden migration due to volcanic activity, the experiences of both populations are likely to be similar for low-lying populations who, due to rising sea levels, face forced resettlement from islands or low-lying coastal regions, to the mainland or higher ground. Even staged environmental migration, like that proposed by the UNHCR, is likely to cause adjustment problems, especially if it is not well managed or supported. This will be a significance governance issue for many states in the global south into the coming decades as the predicted sea level rises begin to alter where habitation of such low-lying areas is able to occur.
One such state that has begun its preparedness for such an eventuation is the small atoll state of Kiribati in the Pacific. In 2014, the Kiribati government bought land on one of Fiji’s islands as a protective measure for their population should rising sea levels make their own atolls uninhabitable (Caramel, 2014; Connell & Lutkehaus, 2017). While this transaction provides some refuge for the peoples of Kiribati should they have to leave their atoll homeland, the act itself will render them stateless as sovereignty does not transfer to the land thereby making them stateless peoples living in Fiji. When interviewed about the purchase and the anticipated environmental migration that drove such a decision, the President of Kiribati Anote Tong stated “We would hope not to put everyone on [this] one piece of land, but if it became absolutely necessary, yes, we could do it” (cited in Caramel, 2014). Forced migration due to environmental insecurity is an issue that could increase both human and state insecurity into the future, and if whole populations from low-lying states like Kiribati have to relocate, statelessness will also result.
In addition to those individuals or groups outside of the state system discussed above, some individuals and groups within a state system may feel that they are politically, socially, culturally or morally excluded from that system. This can lead to increased human insecurity in states, particularly if such individuals or groups resort to violent means to enhance their perceived security. We now turn our attention to such individuals or groups who perceive themselves to be outside of the state system, although, sometimes they are physically located inside the state from which they feel removed.
Alienated Citizens and Terrorists
This section examines a very different category of individuals and groups outside of the state system – alienated citizens and terrorists. We include these groups in our analysis because they too occupy a position of statelessness, although this sometimes is a self-imposed statelessness. A citizen of a state can become alienated for a number of reasons. Taxation, domestic and foreign policies passed by the government, or building regulations are but a few examples of the types of things that can annoy the everyday citizens of a state from time to time. For most citizens, these types of issues will not cause them to turn to extreme measures. Instead, they will simply accept them as day-to-day matters, annoying but not threatening. Other citizens however, may see issues such as these to be a full frontal attack on their freedom, religion, culture, or their perceived national identity. Their concerns may lead them to a more extreme response as they become more marginalised from mainstream or centrist views on issues. They may become alienated from their family, friends and wider society, instead seeking out like-minded others. This can cause them to desire social and/or political change, even through the use of force or terrorist acts. These alienated citizens-turned-terrorists can then pose direct threats to their own state and its citizens, as well as to other states and citizens whom they regard as threats to their own interests and/or home state interests.