Rise of migrants is damaging planet: British think-tank

LONDON, May 30, 2006 (AFP) – The growing number of people who migrate from developing countries to over-populated Western states in search of a better life is damaging the planet and could be avoided, a think-tank said Tuesday. Governments and aid agencies should encourage families to stay put by tackling environmental degradation, such as the spread of deserts, that forces many to leave, rather than promote migration, said the Optimum Population Trust (OPT), a British group that campaigns for a sustainable population.

At the same time, Britain should continue to fulfil its humanitarian obligation to genuine refugees and asylum-seekers, the think-tank said in evidence to a parliamentary inquiry on population.

Parts of the planet that have been damaged by climate change, soil erosion and water shortages merely deteriorate further once their inhabitants flee.

In addition, migrants typically increase their ecological footprint — the damage each person inflicts on the environment — by moving from low- to high-consuming countries.

“The priority must surely be to prevent or cure environmental damage, and help people to remain in their homes and communities, not abandon damaged areas of the planet to their fate,” the