Impacts of climate change, like rising sea levels, will likely soon force people to abandon their land. Now the new government of New Zealand is considering action. They’re thinking about creating an experimental visa category for people prompted to leave their homes because of climate change.
People living on some Pacific islands could be displaced because of sea level rise, and New Zealand might help out. Climate change minister James Shaw recently told Radio New Zealand there could be an “experimental humanitarian visa category” for people from the Pacific, saying, “It is a piece of work that we intend to do in partnership with the Pacific islands.”
Some people have already applied to be refugees in New Zealand because of climate change – and have been turned away. Radio New Zealand reported, just days before Shaw’s announcement, the cases of two families from the island nation of Tuvalu who had applied to be New Zealand’s first climate refugees, only to be rejected. The tribunal said they didn’t risk persecution due to race, nationality, religion, or membership in a religious or political group under the 1951 refugee convention, according to The Guardian.
Alberto Costi, international environmental law expert at Victoria University of Wellington, told The Guardian, “The conditions are pretty strict and really apply to persecution. These people who arrive here hoping to seek asylum on environmental grounds are bound to be sent back to their home countries.”
And the Tuvalu families aren’t the only people who have been turned away. Ioane Teitiota of Kiribati applied to be the world’s first climate change refugee in 2014. New Zealand’s supreme court dismissed Teitiota’s case, and he was deported.
Costi expressed interest in Shaw’s idea but told The Guardian there would need to be clear guidelines – one issue would be how to legally determine whether or not a climate change refugee was able to still reside in their home country.
Via The Guardian