Climate change refugee's case heads to Supreme Court
1 February 2015
The lawyer for a man seeking refugee status on the basis
of climate change says the world is facing an emergency
and it's starting in the South Pacific.
Earlier court appeals have failed but now he's taking the
fight to the Supreme Court.
Iaone Teitiota and his family fled the low-lying Pacific
island of Kiribati eight years ago. He's an overstayer but
his lawyer claims the effects of climate change should entitle
him to refugee status.
"Our argument is basically that he is being persecuted
indirectly with the inability of the industrialised world
to ameliorate CO2 emissions," says lawyer Michael Kidd.
That's destroying the habitat and lives of those who live
"Fresh water's being polluted by human excrement,
drought, high temperature, flooding; two-thirds of the coconut
trees have died," says Mr Kidd.
The Refugee Council says over the next 10 years 150,000
people may be affected by rising seas, loss of arable land
and contamination of fresh water and that the International
Refugee Convention, signed by many countries, including
New Zealand, is inadequate.
"It was written in 1951, more than 60 years ago, and
it was written for specific political refugees from persecution,
never envisaging any possibility of climate change,"
says Refugee Council spokesman Gary Poole.
Mr Poole says New Zealand now has a unique chance, with
a seat on the UN Security Council, to develop protocols
to address the problem of climate change evacuees.
Mr Teitiota's lawyer says his case is the only one of its
kind currently before the New Zealand courts. He hopes it
will be heard by the Supreme Court within the next few weeks.
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