Climate change-related disasters displace millions of people each year. Small island states in the Pacific have become emblematic of the problem because they are among the most impacted and the most vulnerable. Often portrayed by global media as drowning beneath the sea, these states are struggling for their very survival. Many of their residents are looking to move overseas, but face a lack of legal options to migrate. A test case in New Zealand from a Kiribati national claiming to be a “climate change refugee” highlights the difficulty of fitting climate-induced migrants into the Refugee Convention mold. To grant refuge, deemed the persecutor, would have turned the refugee paradigm on its head. This case reveals the wide protection gap left by existing domestic and international laws for those hoping to flee their sinking homes. To fill this gap, it will be essential for domestic, regional, and multilateral bodies to proactively work together in developing and implementing effective strategies for migration.