Kiribati man first climate 'refugee'

2013-10-29 15:58
Inhabitants of Kiritimati coral atoll building a stone seawall to struggle against sea level rise caused by global warming. (AFP)

Inhabitants of Kiritimati coral atoll building a stone seawall to struggle against sea level rise caused by global warming. (AFP)

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Wellington - Ioane Teitiota's homeland is under threat. The island nation of Kiribati, some 4 000km north-east of New Zealand, is feeling the strain of overpopulation, underdevelopment and the consequences of a warming climate.

Teitiota is in the midst of a long battle to be recognized as a climate refugee: the first person in the world to be granted refugee status on the grounds of climate change.

Teitiota currently lives in Auckland with his wife and three children, the youngest of whom is 18 months old. He ekes out a living doing farm jobs, such as picking strawberries, his lawyer said, but his debts have now reached four figures.

"This guy doesn't quite fit because he hasn't been persecuted as an individual and there is no harassment inflicted upon him because of his race or gender," Hodge said.

"Unless people stop what they are doing and also recognize the problems that Mr Teitiota and people like him have ... within 100 years I think this planet will be unliveable and I don't want to leave that sort of situation to my children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren," he said.

Read more on:    kiribati  |  migrants  |  climate change
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