Above Ground Level: 18 km: Migrant [Float]illa

Vancouver (2019)                  

Sara Stevens
Fionn Byrne
Scott Sørli


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18 km
79 km
408 km
35 786 km

The migrant floatilla envisages a post-Brexit future wherein wealthy countries experiencing growing waves of nationalism actively turn all migrants away at land borders. It affords climate refugees the same freedom of mobility as pseudo-satellites in the stratosphere. For example, Alphabet’s Project Loon purports to launch a network of balloons into the stratosphere, claiming it will provide Wi-Fi to remote areas of the world—however, the full contents of the balloon’s payload remain dubious. 

The stratosphere is home to a long history of technologies designed to evade legal and technological classifications, often marketed as weather balloons. These ‘pseudo-satellites’ take advantage of layered wind patterns in the stratosphere, where each wind layer moves in a different speed and direction. Balloons are able to accelerate or decelerate and change direction by moving up or down onto carefully monitored currents—essentially sailing the winds. 

The floatilla is a system designed and distributed by a grassroots UN agency—UNHCSS (United Nations Climate Safety Agency) which can no longer cope with the demands of growing populations of climate refugees. They choose instead to supply refugees with the same agency as a private corporation.

While corporations responsible for the world’s largest emissions contributions are able to operate in legal grey space and reap the benefits of globalization, refugees bear the brunt of national border restrictions.

According to the 1951 UN Convention on the Status of Refugees,Climate migrants are not officially recognized as refugees, unless an armed conflict is somehow triggered. This results in a condition wherein those fleeing the adverse effects of climate change are not entitled to protection, as they are unable to claim asylum.

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