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Forced to flee

Litia Cava
Thursday, November 09, 2017

CLIMATE change refugees have become a national security concern for the Fiji Navy.

In a presentation to the Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and Defence yesterday, Fiji Navy's Lieutenant Commander Timoci Natuva said refugees was a security concern.

Committee chairman Netani Rika said talks on measures that need to be in place for climate change refugees must start now.

"We've witnessed refugees' movement from Syria to Europe and the time will come when we here in the Pacific will experience climate change refugees and it's not far away," he said.

"I'm thinking now, I believe this is the time that we set lengths."

Mr Rika also asked the Fiji Navy as to whether there was a forum that focused on the issue of climate change refugees.

"This is reality and when their islands submerge they will have to go somewhere."

Lieutenant Commander Timoci Natuva while responding to the question said for the first time this year, the South West Pacific Heads of Maritime Forces meeting was conducted and it included all maritime heads from the southwest Pacific.

Commander Natuva said the issue of climate change refugees was also part of the discussions.

"They had mentioned that some of the islands will submerge and that in itself can be a security concern.

"Because we will have islands that will lose their territorial waters because they don't have even their baseline to draw their territorial waters and EEZ form will be redefined,that will be an issue."

He said it was also decided that meetings would be held annually and issues as such would be highlighted continually.

The United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) defines climate refugees as "persons displaced in the context of climate change."

During their submission on the challenges they face when conducting search and rescue,the Fiji Navy also said that Fiji was a maritime nation with its population spread across 300 islands in approximately 1.3 million square kilometres of ocean and communication or co-ordination was a challenge at times.

Meanwhile, earlier this year, Kiribati President Taneti Mamau visted the 5500 acres of land of Natoavatu Estate, beside Naviavia village that was purchased by the Kiribati Government in 2014 for investment purposes.

Prime Minister Voreqe Bainimarama has also given his assurance that Government will provide a permanent refuge for the people of Kiribati and Tuvalu should they be displaced in the face of rising seas and global warming.

The government has allocated $319.9 million for climate related projects in 2017/2018 budget with 36 projects designated as climate adaptation and 13 as climate mitigation.

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