The Australian and New Zealand governments have been inundated with requests from over 100 organizations urging it to relax its immigration policies so that people from small islands in the Pacific that are under threat from global warming stand a better chance to emigrate.
The organizations, which are from across the Pacific Islands region wrote an open letter addressed to Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd and New Zealand Prime Minister Helen Clark requesting them to increase permanent immigration numbers. They also called for more extensive resettlement services.
Damien Lawson of Friends of the Earth Australia commented that “Ultimately there needs to be recognition in our immigration program that there are people already in the Pacific being displaced because of climate change, people having to leave small atolls and islands because of sea level rises.”
He added that Australia and New Zealand need to create a new category for people forced to resettle because of climate change in their immigration legislation.
“We think there needs to be a special category in our humanitarian program that recognises the displacement caused by climate change,” said Lawson.
Two islands that are known to be under threat from the effects of global warming are Tuvalu and Kiribati. Both lie low and are at risk from sinking amid rising seas. They’re also prone to higher damage levels from frequent violent storms.