Let climate refugees into Australia, NZ - report

Tuvalu is believed to be potentially the first island to disappear under rising seas. getty
Tuvalu is believed to be potentially the first island to disappear under rising seas(Getty)

New Zealand and Australia should freely let in climate refugees from two Pacific nations, a new World Bank paper urges. 

The Pacific Possible paper says open access for migrants from Tuvalu and Kiribati for work and settlement would help boost the islands' struggling economies.

Tuvalu has a population of about 11,000 and Kiribati about 107,000. The two nations are made up of a group of low-lying islands that have been flooded more and more by rising seas over recent years.

"The worsening impacts of climate change have provided a new moral imperative for providing open access," the report says.

"The two governments would prefer a slow outward flow resulting from voluntary migration and do not wish their peoples to be treated as 'refugees' fleeing a hopeless economic and environmental situation."

Seventeen people have already sought asylum as climate refugees in New Zealand. Eleven of those are from Tuvalu, and five are from Kiribati, The Guardian reports.

Thirteen claims have been rejected and four are yet to be determined. The Refugee Convention does not recognise climate change as grounds for asylum.

Report author Professor Stephen Howes told The Guardian including climate change in the refugee convention is essential.

"If you don't have that avenue for permanent migration, you won't establish a diaspora, and the most successful migrant communities we've seen, for instance, the Indian community in Australia, thrive because of the personal and community links an established diaspora provides."

Australia's Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade says: "Australia believes that the best response to climate change impacts, where feasible, is effective adaptation and well-supported internal relocation rather than resettlement."

Tuvalu is believed to be potentially the first island to disappear under rising seas. 

Newshub.