Bikini Islanders are applying to relocate to the United States because rising seas are threatening their adopted home. The families were relocated to another island by the U.S. in the 1940's because their original home atoll was to be used for atomic bomb testing.
Their island of Kili, along with others in the Marshall Islands group, is slowly but surely being eaten away by rising tides.
One thousand Kili residents are asking Washington to change the terms of a trust fund that was set up for them by the U.S. when they were removed from their home. This would allow them to settle in the US.
The resettlement trust fund was set up to help the Bikini residents pay for construction of homes within the Marshall Islands. But now the islanders say that their homes are being swamped by not only rising sea levels, but by an increasing number of storms that have hit the area over the last few years. Earlier this year, the island's runway was entirely flooded, cutting off the residents from the rest of the world for weeks.
The residents say salt is also creeping up from beneath Kili, threatening water supplies and agriculture.
Foreign Minister of the Marshall Islands Tony deBrum, says, "The people of Bikini came back to us and asked us to take this proposal to the U.S., to request the resettlement trust fund be used to settle people in the U.S. not just the Marshall Islands. We have not seen the final text of the legislation but the request that went in was on the basis of Kili being uninhabitable because of climate change."
The US Department of the Interior is proposing legislation in Congress that would change the terms of the resettlement trust.
Currently islanders have the the right to live, work and study in the U.S. without restrictions on the duration of their stay.
Assistant Secretary of the Interior Esther Kia'aina says, "This is an appropriate course of action for the United States to take regarding the welfare and livelihood of the Bikinian people, given the deteriorating conditions on Kili and Ejit Islands in the Marshall Islands - with crowding, diminishing resources, and increased frequency of flooding due to King Tides on their islands."
The Marshall Islands government says what is happening on Kili clearly demonstrates the need for a new global agreement on climate change and will be proposing this at November's global conference in Paris. DeBrum says one major point in the agreement must stipulate that global temperature rises be kept below 1.5 degrees C from pre-industrial levels.
He says two degrees "cannot remain as the absolute cap for everything we are trying do in limiting global warming".