Climate change refugee loses bid

  • 20/07/2015
Climate change refugee loses bid

A Kiribati man has failed in his bid to become the world's first climate change refugee.

Ioane Teitiota had for years argued his family's health was at risk if they returned to low-lying Kiribati, which suffers from rising sea levels and water supplies that are contaminated by salt and sewage.

The Supreme Court of New Zealand today declined an appeal by Teitiota to overturn a decision to not grant him refugee status on those grounds.

In its ruling, the court said it did not believe there was enough immediate threat to Teitiota to cover him under international refugee laws.

"In relation to the Refugee Convention, while Kiribati undoubtedly faces challenges, Mr Teitiota does not, if returned, face serious harm and there is no evidence that the government of Kiribati is failing to take steps to protect its citizens from the effects of environmental degradation to the extent that it can," it said.

However, it said its decision should not be taken as ruling out the possibility of people being granted refugee status due to environmental degradation or climate change in the future.

Teitiota overstayed his New Zealand visa and was fighting to stay in the country with his wife Erika and three New Zealand-born children.

The High Court at Auckland in 2013 rejected Teitiota's bid to appeal against the Government's rejection of his 2009 application for refugee status.