University of Sussex

The University of Sydney
Trapped Populations


A European Community funded project to explore the location, extent and characteristics of populations trapped within the Mekong Delta

One of the key conclusions made by the UK Government’s Foresight Migration and Global Environmental Change (MGEC) project was that,

"in the decades ahead, millions of people will be unable to move away from locations in which they are extremely vulnerable to environmental change. To the international community, this ‘trapped’ population is likely to represent just as important a policy concern as those who do migrate.”

Foresight: Migration and Global Environmental Change (2011)

Since publication of the Foresight MGEC report in 2011, the notion of trapped populations has begun to take root in the psyche of those working in the field of environmental migration. With the financial support of the European Community's Seventh Framework Programme, TRAPPED will use an agent-based modelling approach to simulating migration decision-making with the aim of exploring the potential for vulnerable populations to be trapped within the Mekong Delta both now and under future scenarios of environmental change.

The Conceptual Origin of Trapped Populations:

In their consideration of migration in the context of environmental change over the next 50 years, the authors of the Foresight MGEC Report proposed that evidence from a wide range of countries have shown that migration is positively associated with wealth and social capital. By contrast, vulnerability to environmental change is negatively correlated with wealth and social capital. As a result, those with lower wealth or capital were identified as potentially facing a double set of risks from future environmental change:

the low level of capital experienced by such individuals means they are unable to move away from situations of increasing environmental threats, yet;
this reduced level of capital also makes them even more vulnerable to environmental change.

As illustrated in the figure below, these populations are described by Foresight (2011) as likely to become trapped in locations vulnerable to environmental change.

double set of risks

Source:  Foresight: Migration and Global Environmental Change (2011)

If the situations people find themselves in as a result of environmental change are interpreted correctly, it may be that those populations trapped in vulnerable locations have the potential to be some of the worst placed to deal with the consequences. To this end, the report suggested that,

"People who are trapped may become more prone to humanitarian emergencies and possibly even displacement if their situation worsens, or if extreme events occur. In such cases, human survival may depend upon unplanned and problematic displacement. "

Foresight: Migration and Global Environmental Change (2011)

The Planned Contribution of TRAPPED:

With the aim of better understanding the location, extent and characteristics of trapped populations within a specific geographical context (that of the Mekong Delta), TRAPPED will use an exploratory methodology that draws upon advances made in developing social simulations of the migration decision-making processes undertaken by individuals. In so doing, the project will require the collection of both quantitative and qualitative data from carefully selected research sites located within the Mekong Delta.

Project Duration:

TRAPPED will run from October 2013 to September 2016. As the project progresses, more information will be made available on this website. Further information on the motivation behind TRAPPED and the methodological approach being undertaken can be accessed via the headings at the top of this page.

Please contact the researcher, Dr. Christopher Smith, if you require any further information.

picture of mekong mobility

This research has received
funding from the European Community's Seventh Framework Programme
(FP7/2007-2013) under grant agreement number PIOF-GA-2012-329589.

European Commission

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