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19 August 2008
Over one hundred non-governmental organizations from across the Pacific Islands region have written a letter to the leaders of Australia and New Zealand urging them to change their immigration policies in response to climate change.
The open letter -- addressed to Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd and New Zealand Prime Minister Helen Clark -- calls for increased permanent immigration as well as resettlement services and reduced carbon emissions.
Rudd and Clark are set to speak at the Pacific Islands Leadership Forum on 19 August 2008.
Damien Lawson of Friends of the Earth Australia feels that Australia and New Zealand need a new immigration category for people forced to resettle because of climate change.
"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 said.
"We think there needs to be a special category in our humanitarian program that recognises the displacement caused by climate change," he added.
Lawson stated that low lying nations such as Tuvalu and Kiribati are already facing rising seas and vioelent storms. He said that the region could expect sea levels to rise several meters this century.