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John Key says Kiwis have sympathy for a Kiribati man facing deportation

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Shopprice New Zealand

Prime Minister John Key has called a climate change refugee an over-stayer.

A Kiribati family due to be deported from New Zealand on Wednesday have no future back in the Pacific Island, says an advocate fighting to keep the family here.

Reverend Sumalie Naisali and members of the Kiribati and Tuvalu communities presented a petition to Labour and Green Party MPs on Tuesday calling for Ioane Teitota to remain in the country.Teitota has been in custody in Mt Eden Prison after his bid to claim climate change refugee status was dismissed last week.

Prime Minister John Key says a Kiribati man claiming to be the world’s first climate change refugee is an “over-stayer”.

He was arrested by police and immigration officials at his West Auckland home on Tuesday morning for overstaying his permit.

Associate Immigration Minister Craig Foss is yet to receive a briefing on the case, which is now being appealed on humanitarian reasons.

Foss is expected to receive the briefing and make a decision on deportation by the end of Tuesday.

Bonriki, in the Republic of Kiribati, is likely to disappear completely due to rising seas resulting from climate change.

Prime Minister John Key has called Teitota an “over-stayer” and said while Kiwis “feel for the guy” his case is not “unique”.

“If people were being forced out because of rising sea levels then I’d say it’s a valid case but it’s not like he can’t return, he’s an over-stayer.”

Naisali said there were no employment opportunities for the parents or education opportunities for their three children.

“The wife is a teacher here in New Zealand and the children are learning here in New Zealand.

“For them to go back is just like putting someone on dialysis on a plane to fly to Fiji and something will happen to him on a plane,” he said.

New Zealand and Australia must take climate change seriously and do more for smaller Pacific Island nations, Naisali said.

“I think it’s about time for us to stand up and say ‘please do not make fun of this issue of climate change’. It’s real and you must do something.”

His comments come on the back of Australian Immigration Minister Peter Dutton being caught on tape joking about low-lying islands being swamped by rising seas.

This was only days after the Pacific Islands Forum in Papua New Guinea, where climate change was a key focus.

Foss said the decision-making process could slow down Teitota’s deportation, scheduled for Wednesday afternoon.

“I have to make decisions like this every other day actually, some can be difficult but I have to abide by the rules that I have,” he said.

Key said the man’s family situation and a plea to be allowed to stay on humanitarian grounds was a different issue to that of climate change.

“I, as an electorate MP sometimes do advocate for people, who have come to my electorate office for exactly those reasons; they’re well ensconced in New Zealand, they’re probably really good New Zealanders.

“But the only problem is we have a set of rules that say, you have to stick to those rules because basically the wheels fall off because everyone goes around the system,” he said.

“But I don’t think that claiming he’s a refugee based on climate change, that that’s a credible argument.”

That may become a valid argument in the future, Key said.

“We can’t rule out what’s going to happen 30, 40, 50 years from now. But some of the scientists are certainly predicting quite a rise in sea levels, and if that’s the case then it will challenge those low lying states and we understand that.”

Labour leader Andrew Little said the Government needed to set up a framework to deal with the issue of climate change in the Pacific Islands.

“We’ll need the help of Australia, we’ll need the help of other Pacific nations to do that.”

“One of the promises we made for our seat on the Security Council to Pacific island nations is ‘we will help you on climate change issues.’

“That’s got to be real,” he said.

Labour MP for Te Atatu Phil Twyford is advocating on behalf of Teitoa and will collect a petition at Parliament on Tuesday calling for him and his family to be allowed to stay in the country.

Twyford said the Government needed to “get real” about climate change because “it’s happening”.

“I’ve asked Minister Craig Foss to intervene in this decision, as he’s able to do on humanitarian grounds, to allow this family to stay.”

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