Chapter 3.1.1 Strategic approaches

Recognition of the links between climate breakdown and migration

Put in place a package of measures to recognise and help, within the limits of devolved powers, people who become migrants because of climate change.

UK Govt
Scottish Govt
Local Authorities
Emissions reduction
Behaviour change

Migration is an inseparable part of human history: the Scottish diaspora is a well-known example.

However, across the world the speed and scale at which people are currently being displaced from their homes is unprecedented. We are experiencing the highest levels of forced displacement on record. In addition to those displaced by war, violence, persecution and human rights abuses (all of which may be exacerbated by increasing climate stress), we are witnessing increasing numbers of people displaced by climate change-related impacts including extreme weather, drought or sea-level rise.

People who migrate systematically face violence throughout their migration journeys. Around 80% of climate displaced people are women and different population groups are differently impacted.

Recently UK (and EU) immigration policy has been to increase militarisation of borders and to turn to criminalisation/detention of refugees. It is hard not to conclude that this is partly because governments understand that the climate breakdown and ecosystem damage – which Global North countries are causing and have historically caused – are driving growing numbers of people to try to move from unliveable to liveable climate zones. Developments at the UK level, including the new Illegal Migration Act and the plan to send refugees to Rwanda, are abhorrent.

Within areas of devolved power, we welcome the continuation of the New Scots Refugee Integration Strategy.57 The Scottish Government should:

1. make a public commitment to a humane policy on migration that is forced by climate breakdown, recognising that the most marginalised communities are on the front line of the climate crisis and often face its worst impacts, and challenge ‘migrant crisis’ narratives

2. accelerate the scale and implementation of the Climate Justice Fund and Loss and Damage Fund; recognising that where damage and loss are already occurring, forced migration often results.

3. promote peaceful, rights-based approaches to migration at origin, transit and destination: this could be a major strand of work for the proposed Peace Institute for Scotland, but should also be supported by strong public messaging

4. open up and co-create, for example with the Scottish Refugee Council and City of Sanctuary, spaces of imagination and possibility to gain new perspectives on migration and mobility

5. take higher-profile action to tackle structural violence, counter hate speech and safeguard the rights of migrants who have arrived in Scotland, whether asylum seekers or recognised/resettled refugees

6. reflecting reserved powers, the Scottish Government should call on the UK Government to

  • support safe and equitable migration systems
  • counter hate speech and safeguard the rights of migrants according to international law

For further information:

Climate change exacerbates violence against women and girls, UN OHCHR, 2022,


Supporting New Scots, Scottish Government, 2023,

Version 1.0: September 2023

The contents of this document will be updated on a regular basis.