Impeded migration as adaptation: COVID-19 and its implications for translocal strategies of environmental risk management

Stange, Gunnar / Harald Sterly / Patrick Sakdapolrak / Marion Borderon / Benjamin Schraven / Diogo Andreola Serraglio / Mariya Aleksandrova
External Publications (2020)

published on Environmental Migration Portal, 22.10.2020, Online


In the debate on the environmental impacts on migration, migration as adaptation has been acknowledged as a potential risk management strategy, based on risk spreading and mutual insurance of people living spatially apart: migrants and family members that are left behind stay connected through a combination of financial and social remittances, joint decision-making and mutual commitment. Conceptualizing migration as adaptation as translocal livelihood systems enables us to identify the differentiated vulnerabilities of households and communities. COVID-19 and the restrictions on public life and mobility imposed by governments worldwide constitute a complex set of challenges for these translocal systems and strategies, especially in the Global South. Focusing on examples, we highlight two points: first, the COVID-19 crisis shows the limits of migration and translocal livelihoods for coping with and adapting to climate and environmental risks. Second, as these restrictions hit on a systemic level and affect places of destination as well as origin, the crisis reveals specific vulnerabilities of the translocal livelihoods themselves. Based on the translocal livelihoods approach, we formulate insights and recommendations for policies that move beyond the narrow, short-term focus on the support of migrant populations alone and address the longer-term root causes of the vulnerabilities in translocal livelihoods systems.

About the authors

Schraven, Benjamin

Political Scientist


Aleksandrova, Mariya

Climate risk governance


Further experts

Bauer, Steffen

Political scientist 

Beck, Tanja

Political Science 

Brandi, Clara

Economy and Political Science 

Christ, Simone

Social Anthropology 

Dippel, Beatrice


Ekoh, Susan S.

Environmental Research 

Flaig, Merlin

Social Science 

Hägele, Ramona

Political Scientist 

Iacobuta, Gabriela

Climate and sustainable development policy 

Jaji, Rose


Kuhnt, Jana

Development Economist 

Lehmann, Ina

Political Science 

Malerba, Daniele


Martin-Shields, Charles

Political Scientist 

Mathis, Okka Lou

Political Scientist 

Never, Babette

Political Scientist 

Pegels, Anna


Srigiri, Srinivasa Reddy

Agricultural Economist