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PNG: Migration group plans help for climate migrants to relocate

Young girls from Taku'u Atoll in Papua New Guinea ... climate change has forced many in their community to relocate to Bougainville. Image: Once There Was An Island still

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Item: 9361

PORT MORESBY (Radio New Zealand International/Pacific Media Watch): The International Organisation for Migration has signed an agreement to help Papua New Guinea cope with people forced to move because of the changing climate.

The IOM and the PNG Government's Office of Climate Change and Development signed an memorandum of understanding this week.

The IOM's head of mission in PNG, George Gigauri, says they want to increase the ability of affected communities to find durable solutions and also to use migration as an adaptation strategy.

"We recognise that climate change is the new driver of migration and we are working together with our partners on a number of things, but ultimately it is about helping people to adapt to the climate change and the changes around them induced by environmental changes. And that ranges from disaster risk reduction work to ultimately, resettlement."

He says while the term refugee cannot be applied to environmental migrants there is a need for a legal mechanism that recognises their plight.
Funafuti's oceanside shoreline, Tuvalu

This week an i-Kiribati man, Ioane Teitiota, who has been seeking to stay in New Zealand, was refused a legal appeal to a deportation order, after he had claimed he was a climate refugee.

Gigauri says refugee status is clearly defined under the Refugee Convention, and as it stands this cannot be applied to climate change victims.

He says they can be climate change migrants or internally displaced people but this points to the need for a new legal framework.

"It doesn't mean that we have to change the Refugee Convention, it just perhaps means that we have to come up with a new, whether it is a regional or a national or even a global convention, that is some sort of a normative instrument that recognises this special category of people. So yes the legal system does need to catch up to this emerging group."

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Pacific Media Watch is compiled for the Pacific Media Centre as a regional media freedom and educational resource by a network of journalists, students, stringers and commentators.
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