Vila Times

Climate change made Kiribati ‘almost unlivable’

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Thousands of Kiribati people are living in Auckland illegally because climate change has made their homeland almost uninhabitable, a human rights lawyer has said.

Michael Kidd represented Kiribati man Ioane Teititoa, who was deported in 2015 after his application for climate change refugee status was declined, reports NZN.

He wanted the climate change refugee visa to include the roughly 2000 displaced Kiribati people already living in New Zealand.

“If they are prepared to apply it to people already in New Zealand I think it would be great, for example, for the 2000 Kiribati people in Auckland. That’s the scope of the problem,” Kidd said.

Teititoa’s case for climate change asylum went international, including an offer of a home and job from East Timor’s former president Jose-Ramos Horta. However, this offer eventually fell through and Teititoa, his wife and three New Zealand-born children were deported to Kiribati.

A BBC reporter visited Teititoa in his home of Tarawa two months after he was deported and found his children were suffering from skin problems caused by contaminated water.

“I argue that for all intensive purposes the islands are unliveable. The only fresh water they were getting is bottled water from UN aid,” Kidd said.

He would like to see the UN Convention for Refugees extended to include those who are climate change refugees under the legal jurisdiction of “gross negligence”.

The larger, industrial countries like the US, he said, have shown a deliberate lack of care when it comes to their high levels of emissions, resulting in the displacement of low-lying Pacific nations such as Kiribati.