New Zealand deports Kiribati climate refugee

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Wellington (dpa) – A Kiribati man seeking refugee status in New Zealand from the effects of climate change on his homeland was deported Wednesday.

Ioane Teitiota was put on board a flight at Auckland airport on Wednesday after Associate Immigration Minister Craig Foss declined a last-minute appeal to allow him to stay on humanitarian grounds.

Teitiota was arrested in Auckland last Tuesday after overstaying his visa and the failure of his legal appeal to stay.

His wife Angua Erika and their three New Zealand-born children were served with deportation orders but given permission to stay in the country for a further week to prepare for their departure.

She told Radio New Zealand the family said goodbye at Auckland Airport police station.

“They said we are overstayers, but we are not. We are trying to find a better life for the kids.”

The family lost a final bid to qualify for refugee status in July, when the Supreme Court ruled they would not face serious harm if they returned home, despite the challenges Kiribati undoubtedly faced from rising sea levels.

Teitiota and his wife moved to New Zealand in 2007 and remained in the country after their work permits expired in 2010.

Opposition Labour parliamentarian Phil Twyford, in whose west Auckland electorate the family have been living, had asked the Associate Minister of Immigration to consider allowing the family to stay on humanitarian grounds.

However, Craig Foss said Tuesday night he had decided not to intervene after being briefed on the case by Immigration New Zealand.

Twyford said it was a very sad situation for the family and for the Kiribati community.

“While the courts rejected Mr Teitiota’s bid to be classed as a refugee, this case has highlighted the need for the government to do more to tackle the threat of rising sea levels to low lying Pacific nations like Kiribati and Tuvalu,” he said.

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