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climate change and refugees


SHOULD THE DEFINITION OF A REFUGEE CHANGE TO INCLUDE THOSE FLEEING FROM CLIMATE CHANGE?


In 2013, Ioane Teitiota, a resident of Kiribati,


lost his bid government. to claim


status as a refugee with the New Zealand


Teitiota’s


lawyers argued that rising seas were threatening his sea-level homeland comprised of 33 atolls in the central Pacific Ocean, forcing Teitiota and his family to flee.


Although Priestley


high court judge acknowledged


John that


Kiribati was suffering environmental degradation due to climate change, that did not make Teitiota a refugee. Under the internationally recognised UN Refugee Convention a refugee must fear persecution if they return to their homeland.


Judge Priestley also noted that numerous other claims had been made under international “climate


change refugee


law for status”


by residents of low-lying countries including Fiji and Bangladesh. None of those succeeded.


This brings up a difficult question: Should the definition of a refugee change to include people forced from their homes due to climate change?


The 1951 Refugee Convention spells out that a refugee is someone who “owing to a well-founded fear


of


being persecuted for reasons of race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group or political opinion,


is outside the country of 14 / UNHCR


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