CliSAP successfully finished in 2018. Climate research continues in the Cluster of Excellence "CLICCS".

Science Answers to Migration and Flight


Across the globe people are fleeing their home regions. Together with international researchers, Dr. Christiane Fröhlich from Universität Hamburg's Center for Earth System Research and Sustainability (CEN) shows why flight often turns into a process spanning years. In a timely special issue of Global Policy, the researchers shed light on the role of climate change for human mobility as well as on questions systematically ignored by European governments.

Migrants in Hungary near the Serbian border

Naming just one of the many research results, Christiane Fröhlich argues that “the frequent assertion that the Syrian conflict is in fact a ’climate war’ does not hold”. She interviewed Syrian refugees in Jordanian camps and found that Syrian farmers certainly suffered from climate change impacts. Beforehand, however, the government-imposed market deregulation had severely affected the rural population in economic respect. By the same token, a persistent drought is blamed for compelling countless farmers and their families to flee to the cities, thus triggering the Syrian revolution. But the peace researcher discovered that their number was much lower than hitherto assumed. “Climate change is also used as an excuse by political players claiming to be at the mercy of current developments,” says Fröhlich.

Numerous measures violate human rights conventions

Refugees are often subjected to an entire cycle of violence. Fleeing acute threats they embark on journeys frequently marked by violence, heading for countries of destination where, once again, physical or structural forms of violence may occur. Potentially violent structures are currently largely assented by member states of the European Union. These may take the form of miserable camp conditions or border security agreements with non-EU countries where refugees find less legal security. The researchers point out that numerous measures violate international human rights conventions.

The Global Policy special edition comprises eight contributions from various perspectives, analysing the relationship between flight movements, experiences of violence, and environmental changes. The scientists rearrange the complex issues at play and indicate questions still calling for a political response. This publication is available online for free.

Special Issue: Critical Perspectives on Human Mobility in Times of Crisis
doi: 10.1111/1758-5899.12422

Dr. Christiane Fröhlich
Center for Earth System Research and Sustainability (CEN), Cluster of Excellence CliSAP
Universität Hamburg
Tel: +49 40 42838-9196