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Mooting at Nottingham Law School

Climate Change and Refugee Law

  • School: Nottingham Law School
  • Starting: 2022
  • Funding: UK student / EU student (non-UK) / Self-funded / Fully-funded

Overview

Climate change, along with the human displacement and forced migration this creates, has increasingly demanded global attention in recent years. Since 2008, it is estimated that an average of 22.5 million people a year have been displaced by extreme weather events alone. Countless more are displaced due to the slower onslaught of drought, salinization - making soil infertile for crop production, and rising sea levels. In 2018, the United Nations Refugee Agency recognized that ‘climate, environmental degradation and natural disasters increasingly interact with the drivers of refugee movements.’

At the same time, the internationally accepted definition of a Refugee (Art 1A Refugee Convention 1951) does not easily apply to those fleeing the consequences of climate change. It is arguable that there is little substantive difference between the position of climate change refugees and those fleeing extreme poverty or economic disadvantage. It is understood that most of those impacted by climate change will be displaced within their countries or regions of origin, adding to global inequality and instability. International instruments have tended to focus on resilience and capacity building in these regions. The place of refugee law as part of the solution to such climate change-induced displacement is therefore uncertain and demands scrutiny.

As the issue becomes ever more pressing, Nottingham Trent University (NTU) and Paragon Law have joined forces to support the study of the implications of climate change for refugee law. This will be achieved through a multi-pronged and collaborative approach - the first step of which will be a co-funded PhD scholarship on the subject of Climate Change and Refugee Law. NTU and Paragon Law have agreed to provide 50% of the funding each for a Home/EU Full-Time student fee to support a PhD on the topic at hand, commencing in January 2022.

While the fee is set at the Home/EU level, this would not preclude an international student from applying; although they would have to find the additional funding to make up the difference between this funding and the full international tuition fee. It may also be possible to consider part-time study if the candidate can make a good case for this.

Applications are invited for a fees-only PhD scholarship jointly funded by Nottingham Trent University (NTU), in conjunction with Paragon Law, Nottingham on any aspect of the relationship between Climate Change and Refugee Law, including related elements of Immigration Law.

The successful applicant will be invited to commence their PhD studies at Nottingham Law School (NLS) under the supervision of Dr Helen O’Nions, Associate Professor of Law – an expert in immigration and asylum law & David M. Ong, Professor of International & Environmental Law, and Dr Ruth Brittle, all at NLS.

The successful candidate will also be able to look forward to internship opportunities with Paragon Law, Nottingham.

Deadline for applications and 2,000 word proposals: 1 November 2021

Interested applicants can make initial enquiries as to the suitability of their proposed PhD topic to the NLS PGR Tutor, Dr Helen O’Nions, at: Helen.O’Nions@ntu.ac.uk

The research project will be supervised by Associate Professor Dr Helen O’Nions as Director of Studies (DoS), Professor David Ong, and Dr Ruth Brittle. Dr O’Nions researches in asylum & refugee law and is author of publications including ‘Asylum: A Right Denied’ 2014 Routledge; ‘No Place Called Home. The Banishment of ‘Foreign Criminals’ in the Public Interest: A Wrong without Redress’ Laws 2020 vol 9 (4) 26, 'Fat cat' lawyers and 'illegal' migrants: the impact of intersecting hostilities and toxic narratives on access to justice’ 2020 Journal of Social Welfare and Family Law 42 (3) and, ‘Crisis Framing and the Syrian Displacement: The Threat to European Values’ 2019 Vol. 28 Nottingham Law journal, 27; Professor Ong researches in the conjunction of International Law and Environmental Law, with recent Climate Change-related publications such as ‘Climate Change and International Law: An Overview’ in Pak (ed) Sustainable Development in the Asia-Pacific Region, Cambridge University Press (forthcoming, 2021) and ‘Covid-19, Climate Change and the Role of Nuclear Energy in the Transition to Renewables’ to be published by the (online) Oil, Gas & Energy Law (OGEL) Journal in a Special Issue on Covid-19, Climate Change and Energy Transition. Dr Brittle research interests are in the areas of children's rights, international refugee law, immigration and asylum law and international human rights, based on her PhD thesis in the protection and best interests of refugee and asylum-seeking children.

Entry qualifications

The closing date for applications is 1 November 2021.

Candidates selected for interview will have an undergraduate degree in a cognate discipline and relevant work experience and/or a Masters degree in a relevant subject. It is desirable, although not essential, for the candidate to have completed academic research on a topic related to the proposed PhD.

Interviews will take place before 14 November and  decisions will be communicated to all applicants by the end of November. We will assess proposals using the following criteria: knowledge of the fields of Climate Change and Refugee Law; coherence and clarity; methodology; feasibility of completion; awareness of key literature; and originality.

How to apply

We invite applicants to develop their own proposal of up to 2,000 words which seeks to make an original contribution to existing knowledge in the field. The proposal should include a bibliography of relevant underpinning literature and a suggested methodology. It is strongly recommended that candidates read Matthew Scott’s Climate Change, Disasters and the Refugee Convention [2020] and Jane McAdam’s Climate Change, Forced Migration and International law [2012]

Examples of potential areas for investigation could include: soft law approaches through an environmental protection or migration lens; European policy on climate induced migration; protecting climate migrants through human rights norms; reform of the Refugee Convention; case analysis of climate related protection claims; comparative national responses to climate change-induced migration with a view to establishing ‘international best practice’; theoretical analysis of climate migration responses; adaptive responses to climate change; and the ‘responsibility to protect’.

A presentation touching on some of the issues will be hosted by Nottingham Law School in October (please register your interest by e-mailing Dr Helen O’Nions).

The closing date for applications is 1 November 2021.

Fees and funding

Nottingham Trent University (NTU) and Paragon Law have agreed to provide 50% of the funding each for a Home/EU Full-Time student fee to support a PhD on the topic at hand, commencing in January 2022.

While the fee is set at the Home/EU level, this would not preclude an international student from applying; although they would have to find the additional funding to make up the difference between this funding and the full international tuition fee. It may also be possible to consider part-time study if the candidate can make a good case for this.

Guidance and support

Find out about guidance and support for PhD students.

Still need help?

Dr Helen O'nions