Second UN appeal for Kiribati refugee

  • 11/01/2016
Ioane Teitiota and his wife (File)
Ioane Teitiota and his wife (File)

A second United Nations appeal is set to be filed for a Kiribati man who unsuccessfully battled to become New Zealand's first climate change refugee.

Ioane Teitiota, 39, was deported in September after a long court battle to stay in the country.

He argued for years that his family's health would be at risk if they returned to Kiribati, which is endangered by rising sea levels and water supplies contaminated by salt and sewage.

His wife Angua Erika and their three New Zealand-born children followed Mr Teitiota back to Kiribati after his deportation.

Now his Auckland-based lawyer Michael Kidd is set to file an application on his behalf, under the Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.

"By deporting he and his family back there, both New Zealand and the Kiribati governments have breached his rights because of impending catastrophe," he said.

Since their arrival back in Kiribati, Mr Teitiota's young son had caught an infection and had been completely covered in boils - evidence the family was already suffering, Mr Kidd said.

He had not heard from his client for a month, as he was only contactable via Facebook, but at last contact Mr Teitiota and his family were staying with relatives on Tarawa Atoll.

"They're just living hand to mouth....they sounded pretty desperate."

Mr Teitiota had not found a job, he said.

"I'm generally very concerned that the longer they stay there I think the harder it will be because of lack of work."

Shortly after his deportation, former East Timor president Jose Ramos-Horta posted on Mr Teitiota's Facebook page offering him a job and home in Timor-Leste.

However Mr Kidd said due to the difficulties of getting in touch with Mr Teitiota, it was difficult to determine whether he intended to accept the offer.

Mr Teitiota stayed in New Zealand after his three-year work visa expired in 2010, but failed in his court battle to be granted refugee status.

Prime Minister John Key has said he does not consider Mr Teitiota a climate change refugee but an overstayer.

NZN