At the Pacific Islands Forum Leaders’ Meeting in the Cook Islands, Australia’s Prime Minister Anthony Albanese announced that his government is willing to offer asylum to the entire population of Tuvalu impacted by climate change.
Tuvalu is a small nation made up of nine low-lying islands in the southwest Pacific Ocean between Australia and Hawaii. It has a total area of 26 square kilometers and a population of 11,426, and is considered at risk of being submerged due to rising sea levels.
According to the United Nations Development Program (UNDP), half of Tuvalu’s capital, Funafuti, is expected to be flooded by tidal waters by 2050.
The “groundbreaking” pact, offered by PM Albanese would allow all of Tuvalu residents to legally migrate to Australia.
Under the agreement signed by both countries, Australia committed to providing assistance to Tuvalu “in response to a major natural disaster, health pandemics and military aggression,” and to establish a “dedicated intake” granting permanent residency to Tuvaluans in Australia.
An initial migration cap will be set at 280 people per year.
Acknowledging that climate change remains “the greatest threat to the livelihoods, security and well-being of people in the Pacific,” Albanese’s office said Australia will make additional investments to “build the resilience of our Pacific partners.”
“The Australia-Tuvalu Falepili union will be regarded as a significant day in which Australia acknowledged that we are part of the Pacific family,” Albanese said.
The government of Australia will commit at least $350 million to climate infrastructure in the region, including $75 million for a program to develop renewable energy in remote and rural areas.
Prime Minitsr Albanese also added that Australia was “open to approaches from other countries on how we can enhance our partnerships” with Pacific nations.