New Zealand: the “first climate refugees” the world rejected

Illustration. Les cultures dans les îles Kiribati sont gravement touchées par la montée des eaux salées, polluant l'eau douce.

Illustration . Crops in Kiribati are seriously affected by rising saline waters, polluting fresh water. Flickr / Jopolopy

Ioane Teitiota hoped to become the first climate refugees in the world. But according to the Supreme Court of New Zealand, this will not be the case. The reason? The applicant did not meet the criteria for refugee status as defined by the UN.

A native of Kiribati, the 38 year-old man had to leave his country with his wife and three children. There, entire areas of the coral islands barely above the sea level, are invaded by the ocean. Erosion nibbles shores, and salt water contaminate freshwater supplies islands. Ioane Teitiota impossible to cultivate his land. According to the Committee on the Rights of the UN Human, Kiribati is part of the archipelagos that could become landless due to global warming.

Climate refugee concept is not officially recognized

If the highest court of the country acknowledged Monday that Kiribati were “unquestionably face challenges” climate, it also found that “Mr. Teitiota does not incur serious danger “in his native country, since” no material indicates that the Government of Kiribati failing in its duty to protect its population from the effects of environmental degradation, within its means. ”

However, if the concept of climate refugee appeared in 1985 in a report by the United Nations Environment Programme, it is still not recognized by international conventions and has no existence legal.

Another problem, the country fears that a favorable judgment would encourage an exodus. For the inhabitants of the archipelago already flock to New Zealand and Australia. A leak that even the authorities do not officially Kiribati wish: they support neither publicly nor financially judicial approach their national. “Too proud,” Michael Kidd, lawyer Ioane Teitotia.

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