Cookies on this website
We use cookies to ensure that we give you the best experience on our website. If you click 'Continue' we'll assume that you are happy to receive all cookies and you won't see this message again. Click 'Find out more' for information on how to change your cookie settings.

'The environmental factor in migration dynamics' by Gunvor Jonsson

Claims that climate change will shape the future of global migration are continuously being made in academia as well as popular and policy circles. This paper questions the empirical basis for such claims, drawing on a critical review of 13 case studies of environmentally induced migration in the Sahel and the wider migration and development literature. It highlights some of the conceptual and methodological flaws that recur in many of these studies. First, their terminology is often confused, with concepts such as environment and climate, change and variability being conflated. Second, some do not acknowledge the extreme climate variability and unstable environments that are the norm for many Sahelian people; in this context, mobility can be a successful coping mechanism, potentially reducing environmental stress. Third, the paper criticises the use of static push-pull frameworks which suggest that migrants are being ‘pushed out’ of marginal and degraded environments, neglecting the intertwined environmental, political, economic and cultural factors. Fourth, the paper highlights flaws in the sampling and questionnaires used, particularly in some of the more recent studies. In conclusion, the paper calls for more open research that explores the complex inter-relationship between environmental factors and mobility rather than starting from the assumption of a simplistic causal relationship.

Download the working paper

Similar stories

Working Paper: Immigration policy effects – A conceptual framework

Liv Bjerre provides a conceptual framework for the analysis of immigration policy effects by arguing that immigration policies have varying effects on different categories of immigrants whether they are regular immigrants, asylum seekers or irregular immigrants

Return Migration in Africa

IMI Researcher, Dr. Marie-Laurence Flahaux together with Dr. Bruno Shoumaker and Dr. Thierry Eggerickx edit a new issue of 'Space, Populations, Societies' which seeks to explore the understudied aspects of return migration in Africa

Working Paper: Hopes and fears of migrants’ contribution to political change, a Tunisian case study

Marieke van Houte explores complexities of political change in relation to mobility and immobility through a fascinating Tunisian case study that challenges conventional notions that transnational political engagements contribute to democratization

Exploring domestic & diasporic non-government responses to the Liberian Ebola Crisis

New article published in the academic journal, African Affairs by IMI Senior Research Officer Robtel Neajai Pailey

Legal invisibility was the best thing to happen to me

Senior Research Officer Robtel Neajai Pailey shares her experience of living as an undocumented migrant in the US for 14 years in a remarkable piece for Al Jazeera

Call for papers for new journal Migration and Society

The first issue of the journal focuses on Hospitality and hostility towards migrants: Global perspectives