Climate Refugees to Be Welcomed in New Zealand
New Zealand has announced it will create a special refugee visa for Pacific Islanders displaced by rising seas. The country says it is preparing for the possibility of a larger evacuation of island residents in the future as a result of ongoing climate change.
In the low-lying and vulnerable Pacific islands, the number of people moving within their own nations to flee worsening storms, sea level rise, and other climate-related crises is still relatively small.
But countries like New Zealand are making plans now before climate migration grows into a regional emergency.
“We want to get ahead of this before it turns into a real problem … we want to start a dialogue with the Pacific Island countries about this notion of migrating with dignity, if things get to that point,” Minister for Climate Change and leader of the Green Party, James Shaw said.
“One of the options is a special humanitarian visa to allow people who are forced to migrate because of climate change,” Shaw told the Thomson Reuters Foundation in a phone interview from the UN climate talks in Bonn, which were hosted by Fiji.
In 2014, a New Zealand judge granted residency to a family from Tuvalu, in part on humanitarian grounds related to climate change.
“The reason why we were throwing around an idea of a visa is because people who have been displaced by environmental conditions like rising seas and climate change aren’t counted under the UN Convention on Refugees,” Shaw said.
New Zealand’s new Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has made tackling climate change one of her top priorities and committed last month to erase the nation’s carbon footprint by 2050.
Original article by Lin Taylor, Christian Science Monitor, November 17, 2017.