The first man to claim asylum based on climate change has lost his latest appeal against deportation from New Zealand. Ioane Teitiota, 37, does not want to return to Kiribati as he claims his right to life is threatened by rising sea levels, according to ABC.
The Court of Appeal ruled against him, and this probably means he will now be deported unless he takes his the claim all the way to the Kiwi Supreme Court.
The man has already lost an appeal to the High Court in Auckland. He has been told throughout that his claim does not match the legal criteria required. He would need to have a genuine fear of persecution or have his life threatened for his case to succeed.
The court ruled that the case was “fundamentally misconceived”, and threw it out. His lawyer, Michael Kidd, said the case was about how the courts interpreted their international duties under UN treaties on refugees.
Mr Kidd has 30 years’ experience as a Human Rights lawyers and is also a Labour politician. In December he announced that he would seek the Labour nomination for the House of Representatives on a platform of reversing welfare cuts.
He said: “The issue really is what the definition of persecution is. Our point right through has been that there is ‘passive persecution’ from the inability of the Kiribati government to protect the right to life of Mr Teitiota and his children.”
Mr Teitiota’s homeland of Kiribati is a low-lying South Pacific island nation. It has a population of around 100,000, all of whom live an average of two meters above sea level. They are therefore very nervous about rising sea levels.
However, the former British Colony is also very poor and lacks opportunities. It has a gross domestic product of $1,592 per capita compared to New Zealand’s $40,481. Making it extremely tempting for people from the island to attempt to move to much richer friendly nations. Both New Zealand and Kiribati are English speaking and members of the Commonwealth.
There were genuine fears in New Zealand that if Ioane Teitiota had been successful it would have opened the flood gates to hundreds of thousands of others. This is because everything that Mr Teitiota gave as reasons for his own asylum equally applies to huge numbers of people living on Pacific Island nations. Many of whom are keen to find work abroad.
If the Supreme Court appeal fails they may even go to the United Nations Human Rights Committee in Geneva.