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Climate change may force the inhabitants of small, low-lying island nations to relocate to other countries. There are concerns, however, that neither existing international law nor the domestic immigration laws of likely destination states afford an adequate right of refuge to these future climate refugees. These concerns have inspired calls for a new multilateral instrument to give climate-displaced individuals a right of refuge under international law.
This chapter argues that the domestic immigration laws of likely destination countries may be more hospitable towards climate migration from threatened island nations than is typically assumed. Although the immigration policies of the likely destination countries do not give special treatment to climate-displaced persons, there are existing immigration provisions that, if expanded, could form the basis for admitting climate migrants from the most imperiled states. This chapter argues that policymakers should recognize the potential to expand upon these existing channels of immigration and view a new multilateral instrument as an option of last resort.