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Kiribati Will Be The First Country Swallowed By The Sea!

The area now called Kiribati, mainly the 16 Gilbert Islands, has been inhabited by Austronesian peoples speaking the same Oceanic language, from north to south, including the southernmost Nui, since sometime between 3000 BCE and 1300 CE.

Micronesian populations may foretell the extent and repercussions of the first waves of Austronesian-Pacific Islander Climate Migration.

Half of Kiribati's more than 100,000 inhabitants live in the capital, South Tarawa, a narrow strip of land that lies between the Pacific and an enormous lagoon that depends on a freshwater lens. Life in Kiribati has always revolved around water. It's everywhere you look, always on the horizon. Children play in the water from a young age. It provides them with fish and a means to water their crops. But now, all they can do is look on as the marawa (sea in Gilbertese) turns against them for the first time. According to a study cited by the UN's Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, five nations (the Maldives, Tuvalu, the Marshall Islands, Nauru and Kiribati) may become uninhabitable within the next 40 years, creating 600,000 stateless climate refugees. The original inhabitants of Kiribati are Gilbertese, a Micronesian people. Approximately 90% of the population of Kiribati lives on the atolls of the Gilbert Islands. Although the Line Islands are about 2,000 miles east of the Gilbert Islands, most inhabitants of the Line Islands are also Gilbertese.

The people in this part of the world are generally divided into three groups: Melanesians (the word means black islands), who are unmixed Black people; Micronesians (which means small islands), an ancient Black people who are now largely mixed with Asians; and Polynesians, a people who were also originally Black but have mixed historically with Asians and White Europeans.

Climate migration has already begun, most households in all three countries have been impacted by climate change over the past 10 years (94% in Kiribati, 97% in Tuvalu and 74% in Nauru). This motivates many people to search for new homes – either to ensure a source of income or to find land on which to live. According to Climate Central projections, by 2050 much of southern Vietnam will find itself underwater, affecting almost a quarter of the country's population (20 million people) who inhabit this area, including Ho Chi Minh City.

“Climate change is both a catalyst and accelerant for migration,” said Mimi Vu, a trafficking and migration specialist based in Ho Chi Minh City. It has hurt livelihoods and worsens inequities in a region that is still less developed than other parts of Vietnam, she said. Many of this 20 million are headed to the USA in cities that have particularly large Vietnamese communities such as Orange County, California, San Jose, California, Houston, Texas and Seattle, Washington. The biggest Vietnamese diaspora communities can be found in the United States, France, Canada, Australia, and Germany. These countries have a significant number of Vietnamese immigrants and their descendants, with the United States having the largest community of over 1.5 million Vietnamese people could see that population grow by 10 million within the next 20 years. More than half of Vietnamese Americans reside in the two most populous states of California and Texas, primarily their large urban areas.

By contrast most Kiribati are moving now to Pacific countries higher above the water level such as Fiji, the Cook Islands, Niue, Samoa and Tonga. The international migration opportunities for Kiribati, Nauru, and Tuvalu in the past were primarily limited to seasonal workers in Australia and New Zealand; a new semi-skilled visa in Australia; skilled or educational migration to Australia, Fiji, and New Zealand; and Kiribati and Tuvalu have long-term migration access to New Zealand for 75 people per year. Climate change will drastically impact pressures to migrate, particularly in Kiribati and Tuvalu. More than 70% of households in Kiribati and Tuvalu, and 35% in Nauru felt that migration would be a likely response if droughts, sea level rise or floods worsened. Many potential migrants will not have the means to migrate. Only a quarter of households across Kiribati, Nauru, and Tuvalu believe that their households will have the financial means to migrate. Based on modelling and assuming a medium climate change scenario by 2055 international migration trips for Kiribati and Tuvalu will increase by 35% and 100%, respectively.


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