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Migration, Development and Natural Disasters: Insights from the Indian Ocean Tsunami

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Research and Studies
Diaspora and Humanitarian Support

This paper explores how the occurrence of a natural disaster interplays with the migration-development nexus by reviewing the impact of the Indian Ocean Tsunami on migration issues in three affected countries: Indonesia, Sri Lanka and Thailand.


This paper focuses on three particular aspects of how natural disasters interplay with the migration/development dynamic:

- Impact of natural disasters on migrant communities, in particular heightened vulnerabilities and lack of access to assistance.

- Effects of natural disasters on migratory flows into and out of affected areas due to socio-economic changes which undermine pre-disaster development levels. The Tsunami case studies show some indications of interest in economic migration among affected populations, who had been internally displaced on a large scale close to the affected areas, but numbers of actual émigrés appear limited and a mass exodus never occurred.

- Diaspora response and support in the aftermath of disasters and the degree to which this can offset losses and bolster “re-development”. Diaspora from all three affected countries across the world mobilized to provide support to their homeland at this time of crises. Governments of countries of origin were quick to recognize the potential for support to recovery and redevelopment often facilitating donations from diaspora communities. Skilled diaspora members, especially from Sri Lanka, returned home to provide medical and other support and the local media mobilized to support these efforts. Although the full scale of the diaspora contribution is unknown, it is likely that diasporas made a substantial contribution signalling the key role they can play concerning the development of their home countries, including in the aftermath of disaster."

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