Kiribati overstayer due to be deported
New Zealand is being told to wake up to the effects that climate change is having on Pacific nations.
Ioane Teitiota is due to be deported to Kiribati today after a Government minister refused to intervene in his long-running case.
An emotional last-minute appeal to Associate Immigration Minister Craig Foss, seen as Mr Teitiota's last hope, failed last night.
Mr Foss decided not to intervene, and is not making any further comment.
Mr Teitiota took his case all the way to the Supreme Court in his bid to stay in New Zealand.
He argued for years that his family's health would be at risk if they return to Kiribati, which suffers from rising sea levels and water supplies contaminated by salt and sewage.
Lawyer Michael Kidd told the Paul Henry programme New Zealand cannot turn a blind eye to the problem.
"They need to get together and look at a large scale evacuation because it's on the horizon, it will happen," he says.
"What concerns me about the children going back there is that they're not immunised against the usual diseases there."
With all avenues of appeal exhausted, members of the Kiribati and Tuvalu communities presented a petition to Parliament yesterday, asking the Government to intervene.
Mr Foss was briefed by his department and decided not to do so.
Presenting the petition, the Reverend Sumalie Naisali said it was time leaders recognise the dangers people affected by climate change are facing.
"Do not make fun of this issue of climate change," Mr Naisali said.
"It's real, you must do something about it because it does not only affect the small countries of the Pacific. This is a global issue."
Mr Naisali said there are no employment opportunities for Mr Teitiota in Kiribati and there are no education opportunities for his New Zealand-born children.
Prime Minister John Key has said he does not consider Mr Teitiota a climate change refugee.
"Personally, I think he's not; I think he's an overstayer," Mr Key told reporters.
"There are plenty of people living on Kiribati, Tuvalu and the Marshall Islands ... it's not like he can't return."
Mr Teitiota overstayed his New Zealand visa and was fighting to stay in the country with his wife Erika and three children, who say they will be forced to move back to Kiribati if he is deported.
The High Court ruled in 2013 against Mr Teitiota's bid to appeal against the Government's rejection of his 2009 application for refugee status.
The Supreme Court in July upheld that decision.
NZN / 3 News