Fiji AG Reaffirms Commitment To Welcome Migrants Displaced By Climate Change

Sayed-Khaiyum officiated over UN High Commissioner for Refugees Pacific Regional Meeting 

By Arishma Devi-Narayan Nadi

SUVA, Fiji (Fiji Sun, Nov. 30, 2016) –  Fiji has opened its doors and is willing to offer some form of refuge to citizens of Pacific Islands countries which areunder threat from climate change and rising seas.

Acting Prime Minister and Attorney-General, Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum assured this as he highlighted that internal displacement in the Pacific will occur soon due to the sinking of land in countries like Tuvalu, Kiribati and Marshall Islands.

He said this was a reality as Fiji had also relocated three of its villages for the same reason and 49 more villages with similar issues had been identified.

Mr Sayed-Khaiyum officiated at the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees Pacific Regional Meeting on Protection: Strengthening Co-operation and Developing National Capacity at the Novotel Nadi yesterday.

He said it was also important to see what provisions we had for them when they arrived. These included their legal status and the other practical issues, such as the Government laws.

“Situations pertaining to refugees and asylum-seekers are actually a modern day phenomena that does need to be addressed,” he said.

“There are many countries in the world in fact that probably do not know how to address it; there are many countries in the world that do not necessarily have all the appropriate laws in place or protocol in place.”

He urged the participants to know of the present challenges and bring out these issues during the two-day workshop.

Furthermore, he said that there was no doubt that, whilst Fiji has ratified the Refugee Convention and the various protocols, there was still a need to review the laws.

He said we had taken the law up to a particular stage where it was not addressed beyond that from a practical perspective.

Through an example he asked, if for example a person has been granted refugee status: What are their rights pertaining to, for example, right to have a living in terms of work permit, what are their rights pertaining to children, do they have access to free education, or legal aid representative?

“None of these areas are specifically enunciated.”

In addition to this, he said various conventions had been ratified and Fiji had a Constitution that was very liberal in terms of the application of both socio-economic, civil and political rights.

But he asked how far the rights, for example, applied to the people who may not necessarily be citizens but were seeking refuge in Fiji.

He also highlighted some of the concerns by some who said they had the right to protect their borders and they could not simply allow anybody to come considering their small and fragile economy.

Mr Sayed-Khaiyum also spoke of the refugee crisis on Nauru and Papua New Guinea.

The UNHCR regional representative, Thomas Albrecht, said refugees needed everyone’s protection and support to rebuild their lives.

However, he said at many public stages, refugees were unfortunately labelled problem creators.

Mr Albrecht said: “The increase of over five million displacements for the past year represents immense suffering for people.”

37 participants from 13 Pacific Islands countries are attending the workshop which will end today.

Edited by Jyoti Pratibha

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