Damaged home
Hurricane Maria home damage on Dominica. (Photo credit: Tanya Holden/UK Dept. for International Development / Flickr)

Ama Francis is from Dominica, a small island nation in the Caribbean.

“It’s one of the most beautiful places on Earth,” she says. “It’s filled with mountains and rivers and hot springs and beaches.”

It’s also on the front lines of climate change. Ninety percent of Dominica’s population lives in coastal villages. They’re vulnerable to flooding as seas rise and tropical storms grow more intense.

In 2017, Hurricane Maria ravaged the island and forced about a fifth of residents to flee, some permanently.

Francis was in law school, and the crisis drove home the importance of what she was learning.

“International law doesn’t provide any protection to climate migrants,” she says. “There’s no convention that covers climate migration in the way that people who are moving as refugees, for example, have. And I thought this was a huge gap. It felt really important to me to be working on creating legal support for climate migrants.”

Now, Francis is doing so as a fellow at the Sabin Center for Climate Change Law at Columbia University. She researches and advocates for international agreements to help climate migrants – like those from Dominica – resettle and work in new countries.

Reporting credit: Sarah Kennedy/ChavoBart Digital Media.