27 October 2008

Tuvalu refugees may get special visas for Australia

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Immigration officials have said Tuvalu refugees can use Australia as a resettlement option as a last resort, reports Adelaide Now.

The Green Party has called for a new Australian visa to allow Tuvalu residents to move to Australia as climate change refugees.

Tuvalu farming residents are currently struggling with rising seas and are being forced to relocate to the capital, which is creating land and population pressures for the tiny Pacific Island.

Greens Senator for South Australia Sarah Hanson-Young put forward the resettlement plan to a Senate Estimates hearing last Tuesday.  Senator Hanson-Young is concerned that while Tuvalu officials are considering mass resettlement if the situation on the island gets beyond control, Australia should be also considering how they could help Tuvalu residents.

Immigration Department Deputy Secretary Peter Hughes said a recent South Pacific Forum decided that people living in nations at risk should continue living in their home nation until it is necessary to relocate.

"Should the situation come to the need for international resettlement, Australia would play a part along with other countries in facilitating that, as we do in other circumstances," he told the hearing.

Mr Hughes added, governments should focus on the issues creating rising sea levels and preventing further damage to "sinking islands" rather than giving precedence to international relocation efforts.

"I think the general view that has emerged about climate change displacement is that, first and foremost, the activities of governments ought to be aimed at mitigation of the climate change factors that might displace people, adaptation within countries where that is possible and internal relocation could be part of that adaptation process and, lastly, as a last resort, if needed, international resettlement as a response," he added.

The Federal Government has already pledged $150 million in projects to aid adaptation in the Pacific region as part of its response to climate change issues.

However, Senator Hanson-Young still maintains the government needs to take a more proactive approach in the situation.

"We cannot deny Australia's complicity in this environmental crisis that is now impacting most dramatically on those whose homeland is more vulnerable to sea level rise," she said.

"As the wealthiest country in the Pacific, Australia can lead the global community on this humanitarian issue.  Australia must be proactive in establishing a new class of visa for climate change refugees."


The Australian Visa Bureau is an independent consulting company specialising in helping people with their Australian visa application.

Article by Jessica Bird, Australian Visa Bureau.


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