7 Dec 2015

Lawyer for Kiribati deportee to lay UN complaint

8:29 pm on 7 December 2015

The lawyer for a Kiribati man who lost his bid to be regarded as a climate change refugee hopes to have his case looked at by the United Nations in the new year.

Ioane Teitiota's wife, Angua Erika, waits as her husband prepares to leave Auckland International Airport on Wednesday 23 September 2015. The family's application to be considered refugees from the effects of climate change in Kiribati has been declined, and Mr Teitiota is being deported today.

Ioane Teitiota's wife, Angua Erika, waits as her husband prepares to leave Auckland International Airport. Photo: RNZ / Lauren Baker

Ioane Teitiota was deported from New Zealand in September after overstaying his visa.

Lawyer Michael Kidd said Mr Teitiota, his wife and their three New Zealand-born children were struggling to settle and wanted to look at moving to Timor-Leste.

The family was living with Mr Teitiota's brother-in law in Kiribati, Mr Kidd said.

The children have been struggling to adapt to life there and Mr Teitiota's son has been in particularly bad health, he said.

"His immune system is having difficulty coping with the fact that most of the fresh water comes from reservoirs that are invaded by salt and that are contaminated by human waste.

"I mean, if he was to become seriously ill, I don't think it would make the New Zealand government look very good, would it?"

Mr Kidd said he would be laying a complaint with the UN Human Rights Council and hoped to improve the treatment of those affected by climate change.

"There's a lot of awareness, at least in the European Union, that this needs to be looked at very seriously.

"The New Zealand government seems to be dragging its feet on providing refuge for people being displaced by climate change. The Fiji government has done a lot."

Fiji sold 20 square kilometres of land for Kiribati to cultivate in a measure to increase food security.

Fijian prime minister Frank Bainimarama also told Kiribati president Anote Tong his people should not fear being climate change refugees, and Fiji's doors were open.

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