Kiribati: A sinking island nation 02:07
(CNN)Refugees fleeing the effects of the climate crisis cannot be forced to return home by their adoptive countries, a United Nations panel has ruled, in a landmark decision that could open the door to a flood of legal claims by displaced people around the world.
The UN’s Human Rights Committee was making a judgment on the case of Ioane Teitiota, who applied for protection from New Zealand after claiming his life was at risk in his home country of Kiribati. The Pacific island is at risk of becoming the first country to disappear under rising sea levels.
The committee ruled against Teitiota on the basis that his life was not at imminent risk — but it also outlined that countries could violate people’s international rights if they force them back to countries where climate change poses an immediate threat.
“Without robust national and international efforts, the effects of climate change in receiving states may expose individuals to a violation of their rights,” its ruling said.
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