It’s Happening: Climate Change Refugees
New Zealand accepts application from Tuvalu family
New Zealand has recently accepted a refugee application from a family from the island nation of Tuvalu. The family cited climate change as one reason for relocation.
Tuvalu is a Polynesian island nation of only 10 square miles located between Hawaii and Australia. It is situated a mere six feet above sea level and is in danger of being swallowed up by the world’s rising oceans.
United Press International reports that the refugee family, whose application New Zealand authorities have already accepted, had strong familial ties to the country and that climate change was only one of several factors cited on the application. Back in May, New Zealand notably refused asylum to a family from Kiribati, another Pacific Island threatened by rising water.
The International Refugee Convention still does not recognize climate change as a legitimate cause for displacement, though some have seen the Tuvalu family’s acceptance as a sign that things might be about to change.
“I do see the decision as being quite significant,” environmental law expert Vernon Rive told the New Zealand Herald. “But it doesn’t provide an open ticket for people from all the places that are impacted by climate change. It’s still a very stringent test, and it requires exceptional circumstances of a humanitarian nature.”