Kiribati climate change refugee leaves NZ

  • 23/09/2015
Kiribati climate change refugee leaves NZ

A Kiribati man kicked out of New Zealand despite claiming to be a climate change refugee was only trying for a better life for his children, his wife says.

Ioane Teitiota is flying back his low-lying Pacific island homeland after he failed in his bid to become the world's first climate change refugee.

The 39-year-old was deported on Wednesday after associate Immigration Minister Craig Foss refused to intervene in his long-running case.

His wife Angua Erika and their three New Zealand-born children will follow next week.

Mrs Erika said her husband was not worried about local reaction to him because he had "looked down" on the country.

"He said I am alright because God will protect me when I go home," she told reporters at Auckland Airport.

He was upset New Zealand was kicking him out, but believed it was God's plan for his life, she said.

Mrs Erika encouraged other potential climate refugees to try other ways.

"If they want to find other ways, if they can carry on to do that ... I am not giving up ... we are trying to find a better life for the kids."

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.

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

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