Tuvalu News


SYDNEY, Australia (November 14, 2001 –PINA Nius Online)---An approach to Tuvalu to process asylum seekers does not mean Australia is becoming desperate, Immigration Minister Philip Ruddock said yesterday, the Sydney Morning Herald reported.

Tuvalu Secretary to Government Panapa Nelesone says his country has received a verbal request from Canberra to process asylum seekers, but as yet no official approach had been made.

One of the world's smallest nations, low lying Tuvalu has a population of 11,000 spread over nine atolls with a land area of just 26 square kilometers (10.4 square miles).

Australia's approach came just months after the Australian government rebuffed an approach from Tuvalu to establish a special immigration program. This was to help Tuvalu's people, as rising sea levels threatened its islands, the Sydney Morning Herald said.

Mr. Ruddock denied the request to Tuvalu signified desperation as Papua New Guinea and Nauru reassessed their involvement in Australia's so-called "Pacific Solution" to asylum seekers.

"It's not a question of desperation," he told ABC radio. "I think what it suggests is that in relation to the various countries of the Pacific, some of which have expressed an interest in participating in such arrangements, that we'd be exploring with all of them what those possibilities might be."

He said Kiribati had also been approached, while Fiji also considered involvement.

Australia -- faced with thousands of Middle Eastern and Afghan asylum seekers trying to reach it by boat and claim refugee status -- has used its military to stop them.

It is making arrangements with island countries to accept the boat people and process their applications for refugee status.

Mr. Ruddock's comments came as Ireland revealed it was considering accepting Afghan refugees refused entry into Australia after an appeal from the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees.

In a thinly veiled criticism of Australian policy, Irish junior minister Liz O'Donnell said her government must respond generously to the plight of Afghan refugees, the Sydney Morning Herald reported.

"We have been approached by the UNHCR to assist some Afghan refugees who have found themselves unwanted in the South Seas," she told ABC radio.

"Australia has refused to take them and we are considering a request, a humanitarian request, to accept some Afghan refugees."

Ms. O'Donnell said Ireland believed it must play its role in humanitarian endeavors in the international community.

Australian Prime Minister John Howard told the ABC's 7.30 Report on Monday that countries being used as processing centers would have to find third countries for the boatpeople. They would also have to deal with the issue of what to do with those that are not found to be genuine refugees, he said.

Papua New Guinea Prime Minister Sir Mekere Morauta’s office last night maintained that Papua New Guinea was just a processing center, the Papua New Guinea Post-Courier reported.

Mr. Howard, when asked what would happen to refugees on islands like Nauru once they were processed and identified, said Australia would take its share of refugees but expected other countries to do the same.

In Fiji, Radio FM96 reported Foreign Affairs Minister Kaliopate Tavola as saying the Fiji government is now looking at the implications of bringing asylum seekers into Fiji.

Mr. Tavola said Fiji wants a guarantee from the Australian government that it will take all the Afghan and Iraqi asylum seekers out of Fiji after processing their applications.

Mr. Tavola said Fiji is also concerned about the possibility of the women giving birth at a processing center in Fiji.

He said legislation may have to be changed to ensure that the children born at the center will not become Fiji citizens.


SUVA, Fiji Islands (November 14, 2001 – Radio Australia)---Greenpeace says it is ridiculous for the Australian government to consider asking the small Pacific island country of Tuvalu to accept asylum seekers for processing.

As part of its "Pacific Solution" which involves sending asylum seekers to Pacific island nations, the Federal Government has had informal talks with the government of Tuvalu.

Last year, Australia rejected a request from Tuvalu to take part in a resettlement program for its residents, who are facing threats to fresh water sources and crops caused by rising sea levels.

Angie Heffernan, a Pacific-based Greenpeace campaigner, said Australia is now being hypocritical.

"You've got Tuvalu, a small island state under, you know, threat of losing their islands because of climate change, with very limited financial resources to actually respond," she said.

"You have a very big nation like Australia turning around, saying to Tuvalu can you take our asylum seekers?"


Pacific Islands Development Program/East-West Center
With Support From Center for Pacific Islands Studies/University of Hawai‘i



FUNAFUTI, Tuvalu (November 22, 2001 – Radio Australia)---Secretary to Government Panapasa Nelesone has denied media reports that Australia is exerting pressure on Tuvalu to take asylum seekers rejected by Canberra for processing.

He said a recent verbal proposal from Australia was only an attempt to sound out the government's position on the matter.

Although Tuvalu has asked Australia to submit a formal written request, Nelesone said that should not be interpreted as a sign of acceptance.

He didn't rule out using as a bargaining chip Tuvalu's recently denied request to Australia to accept Tuvaluan citizens in the event that the Polynesian island group becomes uninhabitable because of rising sea levels, Radio Australia reported.



By Michael Field

KOROR, Palau (October 4, 1999 – Agence France-Presse)---Pacific countries claiming to be losing islands and land to the rising ocean may be doing it to themselves rather than as a consequence of any man-made global warming effect, South Pacific Forum officials were told here Monday.

The director of Australia’s National Tidal Facility of Flinders University, Wolfgang Scherer, told a briefing that it was possible that the Pacific might be rising by up to two millimeters a year, but the effect was wildly variable across the region.

In some places, such as Rabaul in Papua New Guinea, rising land levels are occurring due to volcanoes, while part of Australia is rising, causing a lowering of sea level.

The 30th South Pacific Forum summit is under way here Monday with climate change a major agenda issue. Leaders have tended to portray the issue in terms of the industrial world creating a global environment which is leading to rising sea levels and the flooding of low-lying atoll states.

Earlier this year, Kiribati claimed two of its islets in Tarawa had "disappeared" due to rising sea levels while Tuvalu, to the south, claims its coastline is sinking due to what it says is the rising sea level caused by global warming.

Scherer, who is part of a Pacific-wide sea level monitoring program, said it was virtually impossible to identify any manmade effects on sea level change.

"You are playing a millimeter game with millimeter effects," he said, and added he would not want to speculate at this point on whether anything long term was happening to the sea level.

The data, he said, are too little and too recent.

However, he said it was clear that relative sea level rises in places like Kiribati may have nothing to do with the global situation but rather with the way in which the local freshwater aquifers under each atoll are used.

If they are over used by the local population, atolls themselves can rise and fall, letting in more seawater to the fresh ground water and flooding garden pits, giving the effect of sea level rises.

"The land itself is not stable. It is moving and often it is moving because of local issues."

He said the early data suggested that the Pacific sea level might be rising by an average of two millimeters a year, but this is not uniform across the region and findings often are based on data less than 10 years old.

In Kiribati, the data show the sea level fell by 21 millimeters while, just to the north, the Marshalls show it rose 2.9 millimeters.

"We are not finding places where the sea level rise is very strong," Scherer said.

Scientists have little idea of what is happening to the land itself, whether it is rising or falling, and have no solid information on what the seabed floor is doing.

"The question is, what is happening to the volume of the oceans? That is the real critical question.... and we are a long way from being able to (solve) that problem."

While scientists cannot demonstrate any sea-level rise or any relationship to manmade activities, Scherer said there was the possibility of global warming still leading to an acceleration in the rise. This could occur through a speeding up of El Niño events, which tended to increase the sea level in the Pacific.

"We cannot preclude the very definite possibility that the ocean may respond with an acceleration of sea level rise, even in the shorter term."

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