Tuvalu immigrant, Kelesoma Saloa, shares the devastating story of why he had to leave his home country because of climate change for the sake of his children and their future

A growing number of Pacific Islanders are facing the increasing impacts of climate change, including severe cyclones, storm surges, and flooding.

That’s according to a new report, ‘The human rights experiences of Pacific migrant workers’, by the United Nations Human Rights Office.

“Pacific countries are at the global forefront of the negative impacts of climate change,” the report says.

Participants in the study identified 61 threats associated with the effects of climate change in their home countries.

Several described how they had already been displaced and forced to relocate due to rising sea levels making their lands uninhabitable.

Those from Tuvalu noted the impacts of climate change were making it more difficult to access fresh food.

Forty percent of the capital district in Tuvalu is underwater at high tide, and the country is forecast to be submerged by the end of the century.

Kelesoma Saloa​ knows firsthand ​how climate change and global warming have devastated his island.

He moved to Auckland from Tuvalu with his wife and two children in 2012 and has never looked back.

“Houses were constantly being flooded with water,” the Sunnyvale man, who now works as an educator at Auckland Museum, said.

“The water just [went] ‘boom’ all the way into the houses. It wasn’t waves coming from the sea, it was water seeping out from the ground and going into houses and flooding them.”

King tides would last two to three days. Crops planted in the lowest part of the Island would be inundated with water, Saloa said.

“During cyclones, we had storm waves hitting the islands. We also experienced long periods of droughts where there would be no rain for about six or seven months.

“In Tuvalu, we depend almost entirely on rain water.”

He realised climate change and its impacts were not going away anytime soon.

“I said to myself, ‘this is going to get worse and worse’. I made the sacrifice to move to Auckland for the sake of my children and their future, so they could grow up in a better place.”

Saloa has shared his story with the United Nations Human Rights Office, which is leading the #StandUp4Migrants campaign.

The campaign, developed by the Pacific Climate Change Human Security Programme, includes animated videos and comics.

It aims to protect and empower communities adversely affected by climate change and disasters in the Pacific region.

“Climate change is a fundamental threat to the human rights, livelihood, and wellbeing of Pacific people,” Pia Oberoi​, United Nations senior advisor on migration and human rights, said.

“All countries, including New Zealand, have a human rights obligation to address the impacts of climate change, for example through reduction of their own emissions.”

“The purpose of the campaign is to help raise awareness of the human rights of Pacific Island migrants who are moving as a result of climate change impacts.”

This included seasonal workers who were taking up opportunities in countries such as New Zealand and Australia, she said.

“The campaign is also designed to help communities and employers understand their responsibilities in ensuring the application of these human rights for Pacific climate migrants”, she said. The Government recently announced it has set aside $20 million in funding to help address loss and damage caused by climate change in the Pacific.

This story was written by Mildred Armah, originally published at Stuff on 14 November 2022, reposted via PACNEWS.

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