18 Sep 2015

Minister to consider Kiribati family's plea

4:45 pm on 18 September 2015

The Associate Immigration Minister will consider a request to allow a Kiribati family to stay in New Zealand on humanitarian grounds.

Mr Teitiota's wife, Angua Erika and their three children.

Mr Teitiota's wife, Angua Erika and their children. Photo: RNZ / Lauren Baker

Ioane Teitiota is currently being held in Mt Eden Prison awaiting deportation after being picked up by Immigration officers on Tuesday morning, after his bid to claim climate change refugee status was dismissed.

Mr Teitiota's wife and his New Zealand-born children were now also facing deportation.

The family's local MP, Labour's Phil Twyford, had written to the Associate Immigration Minister Craig Foss urging him to intervene and stop the family's deportation, likely to be next week. This minister would consider the request.

Immigration New Zealand said earlier today that Mr Teitiota's wife and three children, who do not have citizenship, have also been served with deportation orders and it "will be engaging with them to facilitate their departure."

It has also been granted a warrant to keep Mr Teitiota in custody until Monday when a bail hearing will be held to decide whether he should stay in jail.

Mr Teitiota has been fighting deportation since 2011 when he overstayed his visa, arguing that he, his wife, and their children will face rising sea levels, extreme weather and crop destruction as a result of global warming if they are forced back to Kiribati.

Despite taking the case through the courts in July the Supreme Court ruled that while they would face challenges, they would not face serious harm.

Some hope

The lawyer for Ioane Teitiota says there's hope yet for his client.

Immigration New Zealand said yesterday that Mr Teitiota will be on the next available flight out.

Michael Kidd said he was lodging submissions today, arguing for conditional release ahead of the bail application being heard on Monday.

He said Mr Teitiota's family were petrified he will be sent back to Kiribati.

Mr Twyford visited Mr Teitiota in Mt Eden Prison this morning and said he was holding up well despite the prospect of being deported early next week.

"He knows that he's up against it in this situation but he's got faith in the New Zealand Government and the sense of fair play in New Zealand and he's still very hopeful that the Government will see its way to showing some compassion and allowing him to stay."

He said Mr Teitiota was a very religious man and he was putting his faith in God.

The First Union said the decision to deport the family before their case was heard at the United Nations was unethical.

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