Pacific News Minute: New Zealand Deports "Climate Refugee"

Sep 24, 2015

Auckland City, NZ
Credit Sids1 / Flickr

Yesterday, New Zealand deported a man who claimed to be a climate refugee...both opposition MPs and Pacific Islanders protested the decision, and said that New Zealand will have to face the reality of climate change sooner or later...details, from Neal Conan in the Pacific News Minute.

Ioane Teitiota was placed aboard a plane in Aukland and flown home to Kiribati. His wife and three children are expected to follow next week. His lawyer, Michael Kidd, told Radio New Zealand that the family was petrified to return to an island where, he said, "King tides wash through the whole place and water's polluted by both sea water and human feces."

Prime Minister John Key turned down an appeal after courts rejected the case; New Zealand does not accept climate change as grounds to grant refugee status. Teitiota had come to New Zeakand legally, but overstayed his visa, got a job and raised a family. "In my eyes," The Prime Minister said, "he's not a refugee, he's an overstayer."

Opposition Labour MP Carmel Sepuloni told Radio New Zealand that generations of overstayers from Kiribati and Tuvalu are not uncommon in her district ..., "Three generations of people here unlawfully," she said, "living in fear...they could one day be found or made to go back." She and opposition leader Andrew Little both said that New Zealand must face the reality that low lying islands will be inundated by sea level rise and refugees will be coming.

Earlier this month, in remarks to Parliament, immigration minister Michael Woodhouse said that Pacific Islanders want to stay in their own countries and that to suggest they want to dash to New Zealand to be saved is a "paternalistic, colonialist, white person's guilt response."