Monday, 14 April 2008 10:19 PM

Pacific Islanders could be New Class of Refugees

With Tuvalu showing signs of the effect of climate change, the rest of the Pacific is under the same threat which could lead to Pacific Islanders creating a new class of refugees.

An article published by the Inter Press Service (IPS) written by Marwaan Macan-Markar talks about this potential threat the region.
The article, following the recent climate change talks in Bangkok, states that, 'A rapidly warming planet may soon create a new class of refugees -- those fleeing climate change in their homelands'.

It goes on to quote a background note by the secretariat of United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) which states that, 'Tuvalu is showing signs of such a dire prospect. The Pacific island nation of some 12,000 people has already appealed to the governments of Australia and New Zealand to open their doors for its citizens to find a new home. The appeal stems from the Polynesian island "witnessing the salinisation of agricultural land and vanishing beaches due to sea-level rise." The Tuvaluan government wants to find new homes "for at least 3,000 people, and possibly its whole population, within the next few years"'.

Tuvalu, which has been facing the issue of climate change which, through sea level rise, could completely submerge the fourth smallest country in the world, has made appeals to its neighbors to allow its people to resettle before disaster strikes.

The article quotes Ian Fry, international environmental officer in Tuvalu's ministry of natural resources and lands, as saying, "The New Zealand government has approved a limited intake of about 17 people a year. The Australian government has rejected the appeal." He added that Tuvalu hopes to make another appeal to Canberra.

"Climate change has become a security issue for us; the security of an entire nation is being threatened by global warming. Tuvalu may be uninhabitable in 30 years if there is no global action to stop the sea-level rising."

'In fact, Tuvalu's predicament is shared by island-nations that belong to a 38-member bloc, the Small Island Developing States (SIDS). And for this group, the week-long climate change talks in Bangkok has offered another platform to raise the alarm about their survival if the world fails to drastically cut greenhouse gas (GhG) emissions, and if there is no aid to help the SIDS adapt to the ravages of climate change'.

For SIDS, the issue is not just about fighting a global phenomenon that threatens the world but it is about the survival of its people. It is the SIDS that will be immediately threatened by sea level rise caused by climate change. If their homes disappear, all inhabitants of these nations will lose not only their home but their culture and way of life and all which make up their identity. And the rest of the world will be faced with the issue of groups of people with no home, not as a result of war or politics or such but because what was once their home is simply not there anymore.

According to the article, 'what SIDS wants through the climate change talks is a course of action that will help its members to avoid the plight of Tuvalu. "We want to avoid moving to a foreign country. We are trying to address this problem before it becomes an issue beyond our control," Pasha Carruthers, head of the Cook Islands delegation at the Bangkok talks, told IPS'.

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