PACIFIC leaders have raised their concerns about climate migration during their audience with Pope Francis in Rome on Saturday.
Vanuatu Prime Minister, Charlot Salwai said climate migration is now a reality for Pacific countries greatly impacted by climate change.
“Island States have begun discussions on the options for re-location and re-settlement. We remain cognisant of the fact that re-location and re-settlement will introduce multi-dimensional issues that will need to be addressed. We echo the call of Laudato Si for the acceleration of international conventions that recognise climate refugees so as to ensure basic elements such as legal protection in new states, said PM Salwai.
The Vanuatu leader was referring to Pope Francis second encyclical entitled ‘Laudato Si’ translated ‘On Care for our Common Home’ published in June 2015 which urged the church to acknowledge the urgency of global environment challenges and called for inclusive dialogue to find solutions.
PM Salwai said the ‘Laudato Si’ ‘firmly and unequivocally characterises climate change as a human rights issue – calling for radical and urgent transformation of global politics and individual lifestyles to combat it.’
“Globally, the rise in the number of migrants seeking to escape increasing inequality and poverty brought on by environmental degradation is indeed tragic. In the Pacific region in particular, the issue of climate migration is now a reality.
“Stronger and more decisive global and international politics is essential to tackle the increasingly diverse issues relating to human rights. On a related matter, may I take this opportunity to reflect on an issue close to my heart – that of the alleged violations of human rights in West Papua.
He said the world cannot continue to turn a deaf ear to the long-standing allegations of human rights abuses in West Papua.
In 2016, Pacific Islands Forum Leaders, in recognition of the importance of this issue, agreed that this issue remain on their agenda.
“Holy Father, at its core, Laudato Si urges the recognition of the vulnerable at all levels of society. The issue of West Papua continues to elude a formal international review mechanism because of the political sensitivities surrounding this issue and I must reaffirm the need for stronger and more decisive global politics to address the most critical issues that impact our societies and our people, said PM Salwai.
The Vanuatu leader invited Pope Francis to visit the Pacific and witness first-hand the unique challenges faced by the peoples of the Pacific.
Six Pacific leaders accompanied by other senior government officials and heads of regional organisations were part of the audience with Pope Francis on Saturday.