Paige West of Barnard College proposes to explore how human migration and its social effects contribute to understanding human social relations as they are emerging in the context of environmental change and social upheaval. The research will be carried out in in a region of the world expected to be profoundly impacted by climate-related migration over the next fifty years, thus making it a test case for emergent international relations related to migration and refugee resettlement. This RAPID proposal documents the context that gave rise to and results from the Regional Resettlement Arrangement between Australia and Papua New Guinea (colloquially known as "The Papua New Guinea Solution"). As of July 2013, asylum seekers who attempt to reach Australia by boat are diverted to Manus Island, Papua New Guinea, for detention and processing, and then eventual resettlement in Papua New Guinea. The Manus detention facility provides an important predictive baseline for understanding how governments respond to volatility in refugee and migrant flows in climate insecure areas. The project entails interviews with key stakeholders in Papua New Guinea, Australia, and the United States; analysis and archiving of the policy-related documents and literature regarding this agreement; and community-based data collection with individuals living in Manus.
The research, a collaborative effort between American anthropologists and legal scholars from Papua New Guinea, will be of interest to researchers in anthropology, political science, environmental science, and international relations. The intellectual merit of the project is grounded in the anthropology of migration and immigration, the anthropology of intercultural relations, especially with regard to xenophobia, the anthropology of post-colonial relations between nations, and the anthropology of sovereignty.
This is an important test case for how nations will accommodate the estimated 330 million climate-related refugees that are expected over the next 50 years. The objectives of the proposed project are to understand the social, economic, and legal aspects of this situation and to examine it as a precursor to what is predicted to happen with climate-related migration and asylum seekers in the Pacific over the next fifty years. The outcomes and broader impacts will be predictive models that can be used in the governance of these migrations. Economic and national security perceptions and immigration policy in the United States and elsewhere will be shaped by important test cases such as this.