Kiribati Man Refused Climate Change Asylum Plea

A man who left the Pacific island of Kiribati has had his appeal to become a climate change refugee rejected by a New Zealand court.

Ioane Teitiota, 37, had gone to court to appeal an earlier asylum bid in which he said he was trying to escape rising seas and environmental risks caused by global warming in his home country of Kiribati.

But New Zealand's High Court in Auckland ruled that his claim fell short of the legal criteria, such as fear of persecution or threats to his life.

Justice John Priestly called the bid novel, but misguided and upheld the original decision by an immigration tribunal.

"By returning to Kiribati, he would not suffer a sustained and systemic violation of his basic human rights such as the right to life ... or the right to adequate food, clothing and housing," Judge Priestley wrote in his judgment.

"The history of the last 3,000 years of human kind records huge movements of people, driven in some cases by overpopulation or scarce resources," he said.

"But the globe is currently divided between independent sovereign states which would certainly resist unimpeded migration across state boundaries."

Mr Teitiota  arrived in New Zealand in 2007 and overstayed his permit.

Despite having three children born while he has been in the country, he now faces deportation unless he appeals to a higher court.

The low-lying South Pacific island nation of Kiribati has a population of more than 100,000, but its average height of 2m (6.5ft) above sea level makes it one of the countries most vulnerable to rising waters and other climate change effects.

New Zealand and Australia, the two most developed countries in the South Pacific, have resisted calls to change immigration rules in favour of Pacific Islanders displaced by climate change.

Kiribati, part of former British colony the Gilbert and Ellice Islands, consists 32 atolls and a coral island, straddling the Equator halfway between Australia and Hawaii and spread over two million square miles of ocean.

It has bought land in Fiji to grow food and build a potential resettlement site for people displaced by rising seas.

It aims to give its people skills to become more attractive as immigrants - an approach it calls "migration with dignity".

 

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