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Expert: it will be tricky for NZ to introduce climate change refugee visa

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New Zealand is likely to get international kudos if it can turn its proposed new climate change refugee visa into reality, experts say.

Climate change is set to displace tens of millions of people in the coming decades, and in our region and whole populations on tiny atoll and reef island nations like Tuvalu and Kiribati could be driven from their low lying homes by rising sea levels, reports TVNZ.

In what could be a world first, the new Labour-led Government is exploring targeted migration through the introduction of a climate change refugee visa.

“The main challenge is that people who are displaced by rising seas from climate change aren’t actually classified as refugees according to the United Nations convention,” said James Shaw, Climate Change Minister.

“The very first step actually is to simply consult with our Pacific island neighbours and to sort of see where they’re at. So this is a very complex problem and it’s something that isn’t going to get solved overnight.”

With future resettlement now a hot topic globally, AUT senior law lecturer Vernon Rive believes New Zealand could win international praise if it can devise policy that works.

“New Zealand really is breaking new ground by going a little further than what other countries have done,” he said.

Rive says coming up with a workable policy will be tricky and he expects it will be trialled on only 100 migrants a year.

“How do you select people who might all be suffering in an equal kind of way from climate change displacement? What kind of expectations will it create?” he said.