Teuila Fuatai

Teuila Fuatai is a reporter for the NZ Herald

Man's bid to become climate change refugee rejected

Teitiota's case had the potential to set an international precedent, not only for Kiribati's 100,000 residents but for all populations threatened by man-made climate change. Photo / Thinkstock
Teitiota's case had the potential to set an international precedent, not only for Kiribati's 100,000 residents but for all populations threatened by man-made climate change. Photo / Thinkstock

A Kiribati man's bid to become the world's first climate change refugee in New Zealand has been rejected for a third time.

Ioane Teitiota, 37, moved to New Zealand with his wife in 2007 after deciding their life on the low-lying Kiribati island Tarawa was no longer sustainable due to rising seas.

Mr Teitiota, who has been living with his wife and three children illegally in New Zealand, had his original application for refugee status denied by a refugee and protection officer.

Following this he appealed to the Immigration and Protection Tribunal - which upheld the decision to deny him refugee status.

A High Court decision, released yesterday, on a further appeal by Mr Teitiota, denied him leave to seek an appeal against the tribunal's decision.

In his judgement, Justice John Priestley said it was not the High Court's place to alter the scope of the Refugee Convention by granting Mr Teitiota's leave for appeal.

"The economic environment of Kiribati might certainly not be as attractive to the applicant and his fellow nationals as the economic environment and prospects of Australia and New Zealand. But he would not, if he returns, be subjected to individual persecution."

Returning to Kiribati would not result in a "sustained and systemic violation of his basic human rights", Justice Priestley stated.

"His position does not appear to be different from that of any other Kiribati national."

- APNZ

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