Not Quite Migrant, Not Quite Refugee

Addressing the Protection Gap for Climate-Induced Movement; Conceptualisation, Governance, and the Case of Mr. Ioane Teitota


  • Lisa Carroll Christian-Albrechts-Universität zu Kiel



Climate-induced Movement, Climate Justice, International Law, Migration, Refugee


This article argues that climate-induced movement is neither strictly a refugee issue nor a migration issue; and that the current protection gap is linked to the fundamental mischaracterization of the movement under one of these pathways. Terminology plays a crucial role in the protections and pathways for movement that are made available for people. Not quite refugee, not quite migrant, persons undertaking climate-induced movement face a protection limbo; where the eventual need for movement is recognized yet, the movement itself is defined in such a way as to be deemed unnecessary, at least for now. The refugee status case of Mr. Ioane Teitiota, a Kiribati national, is a critical example of this protection limbo. Characterized as voluntary, courts successively held up rulings that the adverse impacts he had attempted to escape were not yet sufficiently dangerous to warrant protection. Was Mr. Teitiota supposed to simply come back later?

Author Biography

Lisa Carroll, Christian-Albrechts-Universität zu Kiel

Lisa Carroll from Dublin (Ireland), is a master’s candidate studying Environmental and Social Sustainability in Germany. She received her bachelor’s degree in “Politics, International Relations, and Philosophy” at University College Dublin in 2017 where she also completed her third year at the University of Melbourne. Lisa is currently studying for her MSc in “Sustainability, Society, and the Environment” at Christian-Albrechts-Universität zu Kiel in Germany. Previously she has interned and worked in International Development Cooperation, working alongside Development NGO’s and the Irish Government. Her interests include international development, civil society representation, environmental and social sustainability, climate change and justice, human rights and migration, legal theory and Irish and European Politics.


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How to Cite

Carroll, L. (2020). Not Quite Migrant, Not Quite Refugee: Addressing the Protection Gap for Climate-Induced Movement; Conceptualisation, Governance, and the Case of Mr. Ioane Teitota. Politikon: The IAPSS Journal of Political Science, 47, 36–59.



Research articles