Contrasted Views on Environmental Change and Migration: the Case of Tuvaluan Migration to New Zealand

Type

Journal Article

Author(s)

Shen, S.
Gemenne, F.

Title

Contrasted Views on Environmental Change and Migration: the Case of Tuvaluan Migration to New Zealand

Year

2011

Journal

International Migration

Vol (No), pp

49, 224-242

Abstract

As one of the smallest and most remote low-lying atoll countries on earth, Tuvalu seems to exemplify a typical case of forced migration induced by environmental change. Tuvalu has been essentially perceived through the lens of environmental displacement and vulnerability to climate change – a perception that has been consistently reinforced and sustained by the discourse of its government and media interests. For Pacific Islanders, migration is often seen as a significant pattern of lifestyle, and even a social routine at times. This study employed a qualitative research approach, involving questionnaires and interviews with Tuvaluans, in both the migration origin of Tuvalu and migration destination of New Zealand. We show that the majority of Tuvaluans who migrated to New Zealand did not necessarily do so for climate change reasons. However, the issue of climate change remains a common theme in the minds of Tuvaluan migrants interviewed. This research shows the importance of climate change as a migration driver, in a context of increasing number of Tuvaluan migrants relocating to New Zealand through various immigration schemes, such as the Pacific Access Category scheme. We review and assess the motives underpinning the migration decision of those who have resettled in New Zealand. Contemporary Tuvaluan migration to New Zealand is uniquely related to and defined by complex relationships between people and environment. The migration drivers include environmental change, employment, education and for the betterment of future generations. Whether by design or not, these socio-economic and environmental developments are all responsible for the creation of environmental change in which some Tuvaluans have sought to respond through emigration to New Zealand.

Citation

Shen, S., & Gemenne, F. (2011). Contrasted Views on Environmental Change and Migration: the Case of Tuvaluan Migration to New Zealand. International Migration, 49, 224-242. URL : http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/j.1468-2435.2010.00635.x