4 Aug 2014

Climate change part of refugee ruling

9:53 am on 4 August 2014

A family claiming refugee status because of rising sea levels around their Pacific island home have won an appeal to stay in New Zealand.

The case of Sigeo Alesana and his family, who came to New Zealand from Tuvalu in 2007, is thought to be the first time climate change has been successfully used in an immigration case.

One of the family's lawyers, Trevor Zohs, said the immigration and deportation tribunal turned down their asylum application but accepted them on humanitarian grounds because of their strong family and community links to New Zealand.

He says the tribunal also acted over concerns about climate change, particularly the vulnerability of the couple's children to illnesses as a result of poor water quality.

Another family, from Kiribati, who say rising ocean levels are contaminating drinking water, killing crops and flooding homes, are still fighting deportation.

Tuvalu, beach, vaka ama, canoe, Pacific

A tribunal took into account climate change in considering the Tuvalu family's case. Photo: RNZI