25 May 2013

Protections urged to be in place for natural disaster refugees

9:41 am on 25 May 2013

A conference discussing a legal framework to protect Pacific people displaced by natural disasters such as climate change has been told these people must retain ownership of their exclusive economic zones and fishing rights.

The Pacific Council of Churches' Andrew Teem, says while communities could move due to rising sea levels, ownership of fishing rights must stay with the outgoing citizens.

The conference is discussing the Nansen Initiative which follows concerns that displaced disaster victims lacked legal protection.

One of the organisers, Swiss academic and human rights expert, Professor Walter Kaelin, says the protection of cultural and economic ties will be paramount.

"If people have to move it has to be done in a way so they can preserve their cultural identity, their community ties and also their to their land. It is not like right now we are talking about whole states totally disappearing, it is rather about the loss of part of the state or territory."