Swiss Ambassador says Nansen Initiative can help some refugees
Swiss Ambassador to New Zealand points out role of Nansen Initiative after a Kiribati man, seeking to be an environmental refugee, is turned down by New Zealand authorities.
The Swiss Ambassador to New Zealand says the case of a Kiribati man unsuccessfully seeking refugee status because of environmental damage in his home country highlights what the Nansen Initiative is trying to achieve.
The Initiative is being promoted by Switzerland and Norway and aims to have countries provide legal cover for people forced to cross borders by a natural disaster.
New Zealand's Immigration Refugee Tribunal told the Kiribati man the Refugee Convention does not apply in his case.
The Swiss Ambassador, Marion Weichelt Krupski, told Don Wiseman this is where the Nansen Initiative has a role.
MARION WEICHELT KRUPSKI: What happens with these people, because these cases, they do happen, they will happen more so. And these people need some sort of protection. And the Nansen Initiative tries exactly to address this issue of setting up some sort of protection agenda for these people, and it's not necessarily about making laws. It's about talking about these cases. How can states react to such cases? What are best practises? This is why the Nansen Initiative was launched about a year ago. For the first time there were Pacific regional consultations held in the Cook Islands in May and listening to leaders, to civil society, to experts, academia, what their ideas are.
DON WISEMAN: In terms of the Nansen Initiative, have any countries taken up the initiative?
MWK: Very much so. There is a steering committee. It's a great response. There has, to my knowledge, not been a country that's not had any kind of response. We're all somehow concerned by this issue.
DW: So you would expect a country like New Zealand will have some sort of framework in place quite soon to deal with this?
MWK: It's a worldwise issue, so New Zealand is obviously one of the countries amongst many countries, and we all are concerned by this problem. And we need to address this. And this is the idea of the Nansen Initiative, to come together and address the issue - how do we best resolve it? And the idea is to find some sort of an international consensus on these things, so that not every country does something differently, but finding an international consensus on how to address such cases. How do we deal with it? It's about people losing their livelihood - they need some sort of protection - and addressing these issues.
DW: Do you need, then, to work through an organisation like the UN?
MWK: The Nansen Initiative is not an UN agency in any way. It's a very bottoms-up initiative. It's about having consultations. The goal is not about achieving some sort of international binding legal convention. It's about finding ways how to address these issues, a protection agenda on best practises, how we go about it.
DW: Is the expectation that these people would be classed as refugees or would we be thinking in terms of some other form of categorisation?
MWK: This needs to be seen. They are clearly not refugees in the sense of the UN convention, and that is exactly the point. So they do not enjoy any protection. This is about how do we define an agenda how to protect these people, not in the sense of 'refugee' under the UN Refugee Convention.
To embed this content on your own webpage, cut and paste the following: