Immigration New Zealand is planning to deport a Tongan woman with a heart condition back to Tonga. She is from the island of Ha’apai, recently devastated by a cyclone and yet to recover. Her husband has already been deported and is subsisting on the ravaged island.
Labour’s Su’a William Sio has picked up the Tongan community’s request for a 2 month halt on deporting people back to Ha’apai. I absolutely support this call. Immigration New Zealand has said that as there’s no airport in Ha’apai, it will be deporting her back to Nuku’alofa – despite her being designated unfit to travel by her doctor. This move is disingenuous. Do they expect she’ll live in Nuku’alofa even though her husband is on Ha’apai? Do they not think Tonga as a whole has also been impacted by the cyclone in terms of its economy and social fabric? I would think the Canterbury earthquakes would have taught us more than that.
The government needs to think a little more deeply about our place in the Pacific and how we respond in future as climate change increases the severity and frequency of extreme weather events in the region. New Zealand needs to be working in partnership with our Pacific neighbours to develop a comprehensive and humane immigration policy that meets our domestic needs and the needs of our neighbours.
Foreign Affairs Minister Murray McCully yesterday welcomed the launch of the UN International Year of Small Island Developing States, which focuses on challenges and opportunities faced by small island developing states. McCully said part of this was about “addressing climate change issues”.
He clearly needs to talk to his colleagues who are making decisions around immigration, because that is where the climate change rubber is really going to hit the road.
The Green Party has long been calling for the government to start work on a climate change immigration policy. This week again demonstrates the need for one.