New Zealand deports a Kiribati man who argued he should be allowed to stay in the country as a refugee due to climate change threatening his homeland.
New Zealand has deported a Kiribati man who argued he should be allowed to stay in the country as a refugee because the effects of climate change threatened his homeland.
Ioane Teitiota was deported on Wednesday afternoon after a four-year battle with authorities, arguing that climate change was threatening the viability of his tiny Pacific island homeland.
His wife, Angua Erika, and their three New Zealand-born children will also have to leave, but New Zealand's immigration department has not yet confirmed when.
Michael Kidd, the lawyer representing Mr Teitiota, told the ABC that climate change was not regarded legally as "exceptional circumstances" so he had to return to Kiribati.
Mr Teitiota was concerned about the children, who are New Zealand-born but are not citizens.
The New Zealand government changed legislation in 2006, stating that children of foreign-born nationals in New Zealand are not citizens, according to Mr Kidd.
Earlier this year, the New Zealand Supreme Court said that there could be a case for a climate refugee.
"They opened the door to the concept being recognised. What they said was in this case, it was not bad enough to get coverage," Mr Kidd said.
He said in the next 15 to 25 years, Kiribati will face some form of evacuation due to rising sea levels.
Church, local community appeals rejected
In an attempt to keep the family from being deported, a Kiribati community leader from Auckland, Reverend Iosefa Suamalie, flew to Wellington on Tuesday to deliver to Parliament a petition demanding Mr Teitiota be allowed to stay in New Zealand.
"We just ask for their discretion," Reverend Suamalie said, after handing his petition to Labour and Green MPs who met him at Parliament.
"There is fear in them to go back to Kiribati," he said of community concerns about the impact of climate change.
The Teitiota family's local MP, Labour's Phil Twyford, argued the case for a reprieve on humanitarian grounds.
But prime minister John Key today dismissed the climate change arguments, which have been previously heard by the Supreme Court and appeals courts.
"We have a set of rules that say you have to stick to those rules otherwise, you know, basically the wheels fall off because everyone goes around the system," he told Radio New Zealand.
"I don't think, in terms of claiming he's a refugee based on climate change, that's a credible argument."
- Australian Broadcasting Corporation
- © ABC