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AUSTRALIA GRANTS CLIMATE ASYLUM TO TUVALU
(16 December 2023)

CANBERRA. Australia grants “climate asylum” to Tuvalu, a Pacific archipelago at risk of being submerged within a few years.

The two prime ministers signed an agreement, published on November 10, to be submitted to their respective parliaments, which recognizes the Tuvalese people’s right to “live, study and work elsewhere, due to the worsening of climate change”.

Therefore “the Tuvalese will be able to access Australian social services, in order to live with dignity”, concludes the statement signed by the heads of the Australian government, Anthony Albanese, and the Tuvalese, Kausea Natano.

“The agreement – writes AFP – provides “special rights” for the Tuvaluans and commits Australia to assist Tuvalu in the event of a natural disaster.”

With this initiative, the Labor Prime Minister of Canberra, in office since June 2022, is at least partially modifying his country’s migration policy: until now, Australia has placed many obstacles to the arrival of migrants, especially from Asia.

Now, however, faced with the already evident effects of global warming, it opens the doors to all Tuvalese.

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DIRTY CONSCIENCE

At the origin of the bilateral treaty just signed there are, commentators note, at least two reasons:

1. Canberra is a major extractor and consumer of gas and coal and is seen by Pacific states as one of the main causes of global warming.

So it is very likely that Australian leaders will be burdened by the guilty conscience generated by having so far listened more to the fossil fuel lobby rather than launching serious decarbonisation programmes.

2. also wants to prevent China from extending its tentacles to the oceanic area: Solomon and Kiribati have already strengthened their ties with Beijing.

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UNHEARD ALARMS

The small archipelago, which has only eleven thousand inhabitants, is among the countries in the world most exposed to the climate crisis and rising sea levels: two of its nine atolls are already partially submerged; according to some estimates, these islands will become uninhabitable by 2100. Thus, in October, the Tuvalian prime minister once again raised the alarm: the archipelago “risks disappearing from the maps if drastic measures are not adopted”.

Previously, on the occasion of COP26 (2021), to draw attention to the uncertain future of these islands, the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Justice and Communications, Simon Kofe, recorded a video in which he was knee-deep in water. The image received considerable prominence in the world press.

Kofe accompanied it with the slogan “We are sinking.”

All in vain: the rulers of Funafuti are really worried about their future to the point of having included in the constitution that their country will exist even when the waters have submerged it.

“Tuvalu will exist forever – we read – even when it is physically no longer there,therefore it will retain the right to the waters surrounding the current archipelago” which occupies just 26 square kilometers of land surface, but has interests in a maritime area equal to 800 thousand square kilometres.

“Our sovereignty is non-negotiable,” Kausea Natano reiterated recently: words that could be empty rhetoric in eighty years, when the ocean will have completed its work.

PIER LUIGI GIACOMONI

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