Howard’s refusal to meet Tuvaluan government condemned

John Howard’s refusal to meet with the Tuvaluan Prime Minister to discuss the climate change crisis, as reported in The Age newspaper today, demonstrates yet again his government’s lack of regard for human rights.

February 26, 2007

The tiny island nation of Tuvalu is one of the world’s most vulnerable to sea-level rise and is likely to have to be completely evacuated within decades, creating many climate refugees without a homeland.

In 2000, the Tuvaluan government appealed to Australia to provide asylum if rising sea levels reached the point where evacuation would be essential, only to meet with a negative response.  Again in October 2006.

At the annual meeting of the Pacific Islands Forum in Fiji the Tuvaulan government requested a meeting with John Howard to discuss the crisis facing the country, but was denied.

According to Tuvaluan and i-Kiribati officials, Australia also has a history of blocking discussion on climate change and of toning down the language on the issue in regional communiqués.

“Howard’s behaviour portrays Australia yet again as a very poor global citizen. Despite Australia having one of the highest per capita greenhouse emissions, the Howard government has not only refused to ratify the Kyoto Protocol, but also refuses to take responsibility for the potentially devastating impact of climate change on our nearest neighbours.” said Friends of the Earth Climate Justice spokesperson Emma Brindal.

“Australia should be putting policies in place to accept climate refugees and working at an international level within the United Nations to ensure appropriate recognition of climate refugees. By doing so, Australia would be leading the way in climate change policy that acknowledges and responds to the protection of human rights” said Ms Brindal.

“One of the islands in Tuvalu has already disappeared. I know Tuvalu will be one of the first countries to sink and I want the Australian government to do something about it” said Foga Clements, a Tuvaluan who is now living in Brisbane. For many Pacific Islanders, coming to Australia is the last thing they want. However, for some there will be no choice.

In January of last year the ALP released a discussion paper, ‘Our Drowning Neighbours’, which proposes that Australia help to develop a coalition of Pacific Rim countries willing to accept people displaced as a result of climate change. Friends of the Earth supports the proposals in the discussion paper and urges the ALP to translate them into policy.

More information:

Friends of the Earth Emma Brindal ph: 0411 084 727
Brisbane Tuvaluan Community Foga Clements ph: 0424 449 406