New Zealand is proposing a special refugee visa for Pacific Islanders who are forced to migrate because of rising sea levels, the Reuters reported on Saturday. This was announced by New Zealand’s new climate change minister at the United Nations climate talks in Germany last week.
While some people are moving to flee worsening storms, sea level rise and other climate-related crises in the low-lying and vulnerable Pacific islands, the number is still relatively small. The most recent case has been in 2014, when a New Zealand judge granted residency to a family from Tuvalu, in part on humanitarian grounds related to climate change. However, while the 1951 UN Refugee Convention grants refugee status to those fleeing persecution, wars, and conflicts; it does not include climate change as a reason to seek asylum.