Kiribati community vows to fight refugee deportation
A Kiribati community leader in New Zealand is at Parliament today begging the government not to deport a family who argue they are climate change refugees.
About 70 people poured into a public meeting in West Auckland on Monday night in support of Ioane Teitiota his wife Angua Erika, and their three children.
Mr Teitiota has been fighting against deportation back to Kiribati since 2011, arguing he should be considered a refugee based on climate change, and rising sea levels.
He's been told he's booked on a flight out of New Zealand on Wednesday.
Nicole Pryor was at the meeting.
The crowd was sombre yet hopeful about the family's future. One of the people there, John Corcoran, has been a key witness in legal proceedings. Mr Corcoran says the family's outlook is grim, with many Kiribati families already struggling to survive on the island.
JOHN CORCORAN: At the moment there's not much jobs provided by the government, so when they go back they will be struggling, Ioane will be struggling, and I'm pretty sure that it will be hard for him to get a job there.
Mr Corcoran says Mr Teitiota's children will also suffer.
JOHN CORCORAN: [The] children will miss the food that they are used to in New Zealand, like fresh fruit, the only food back home is rice, flour, fish and hardly any fruit.
He says there's little hope they could grow any crops of their own, and even access to clean water is fading.
JOHN CORCORAN: Well in most places now it's quite hard to plant crops, especially in the coastal areas. And the well water, especially those wells that are close to the lagoon, to the ocean side, during high tide the sea will actually go into the well making the well taste like sea water.
The event organiser, and member of the Service and Food Workers Union, Fala Haulangi, says the community is not going to stop fighting.
FALA HAULANGI: The community has the power to take ownership of that and say hey, we're suffering here and what are you people doing? So that's why the community has started to say, if the government is too slow, if the United Nations is too slow to do something, let's do it, because at the end of the day, these people are very much a part of our community, day in and day out, and they're going to deported back to Kiribati or Tuvalu when they have been part of the community.
Ms Haulangi says Ioane Teitiota's wife, Angua Erika, is worried for her children's future.
FALA HAULANGI: They are well settled here, they are not on the benefit or anything, they work hard and they look after their kids. The mother said 'my priority is a better future for my children', this is their home, they are born in New Zealand. The only home they know is New Zealand not Kiribati.
The Labour MP for Kelston, Carmel Sepuloni, says it's not uncommon in her electorate to have generations of overstayers from Kiribati and Tuvalu.
CARMEL SEPULONI: Three generations of people here unlawfully who are living in fear, two of those generations who have never known Tuvalu really and so to constantly have that cloud above them where they could one day be found and asked or made to go back is a horrible climate for them to be living in.
Ms Sepuloni says the Government needs to step up.
CARMEL SEPULONI: New Zealand and Australia need to really take responsibility for that I think. We're facing, these two countries especially, are facing climate change issues that are going to mean they legitimately will be the first climate change refugees and you know they're our neighbours.
Ms Sepuloni says a serious conversation about climate change.
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