Climate refugee claim: deportation due

A family desperate to stay in New Zealand as climate change refugees are devastated one of them is being held in police cells and could be deported at any time.

Ioane Teitiota was picked up by immigration officers early on Tuesday morning - the culmination of a case that began in 2011 when he overstayed his visa.

Mr Teitiota has been fighting deportation since then, arguing that he, his wife, and their three New Zealand-born children will face rising sea levels, extreme weather and crop destruction as a result of global warming if they are forced back to Kiribati.

Mr Teitiota's wife, Angua Erika, said he was followed by three immigration officers while on his way to work on Tuesday. "They stop at the Fresh Choice, at the supermarket." she said. "So they locked the car and they take the car, and they take Ioane to the police station."

Her voice trembled as she described how officers then visited her at home, where she was with her three children, aged seven and under.

"When the immigration came and they just discuss about what happen to Ioane, and my daughter went to the room and write the note, 'I miss you Dad, I love you so much'. She wanted me to give to one of the ladies, the immigration ladies."

Ms Erika said she did not know what would happen next, or when, but judging by a call from her husband, they could be on the move soon.

He asked her whether she had his passport. "And I said 'is this the last decision for you?' and he say, 'oh yes'."

The family argue that due to man-made climate change, it would a serious threat to their lives in the long term to go to Kiribati.

Despite taking the case through the courts, in July, the Supreme Court ruled that while they would face challenges, they would not face serious harm.

The family has been supported by a local church, and Reverend Alee Talava, who said the family was "destroyed" emotionally.

"They really don't know what to do. It's pretty hard. This is an incident which will leave quite a lot of damage to the children as well."

Mr Teitiota's lawyer Michael Kidd was today applying for bail and was also about to file an application to the United Nations Human Rights Committee for help in the family's bid to be deemed climate change refugees.

"Their right to life is going to be significantly impacted by going back to such a hostile environment," he said.

"There's a lack of fresh water, there's rising sea levels, a lack of ability to grow crops, danger from storms that are coming through, and frequent flooding."