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Applying the ‘useable past’ to the protection of climate migrants : child displacement from Vietnam and Montserrat, 1975-2000

Fleury, Saphia



Dan Parsons


This study uses an eco-global criminological approach to understanding how children may migrate in the future as a result of environmental change, including climate change, and the human rights abuses they may face without adequate protections. It analyses the existing legal protections for environmental migrants and suggests solutions to fill protection gaps. Through the “useable past” of two case studies of mass migration – the post-1975 Vietnamese boat people exodus and the evacuation of Montserrat following volcanic eruptions in the 1990s – the thesis overturns the long-standing, dominant narratives about the causes of migration from these two locations and documents patterns of risk and abuse faced by both regular and irregular child migrants. Making extensive use of oral history archives, key witness discussions and newly uncovered historical government documents, this study demonstrates that the perpetrators of human rights violations against child migrants include both sending and receiving states, as well as private actors. It finds that unaccompanied and separated children remain particularly vulnerable to abuse and exploitation and need urgent protections. It also finds that migrants’ legal status is the single biggest determinant of safe migration and resettlement. The thesis presents a new model for analysing the various intersecting factors that drive migration and vulnerability in the context of environmental change. It concludes by proposing legal solutions to environmental migration that rely not on new treaty law, but on existing human rights conventions in conjunction with innovative bilateral agreements to resettle populations at grave risk from climate change and to facilitate safer migration.


Fleury, S. (2023). Applying the ‘useable past’ to the protection of climate migrants : child displacement from Vietnam and Montserrat, 1975-2000. (Thesis). University of Hull. Retrieved from

Thesis Type Thesis
Deposit Date Jun 12, 2023
Publicly Available Date Jun 12, 2023
Keywords Environmental change ; Environmental migration ; Undocumented child migration
Public URL
Additional Information The Wilberforce Institute,
The University of Hull
Award Date May 1, 2023


Thesis (9.7 Mb)

Copyright Statement
© 2023 Saphia Fleury. All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced without the written permission of the copyright holder.

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