Stemming the tide Development instead of migration

Conscious that climate change could have a more direct impact given its accompanying threat of an upwards trajectory in migration and the accompanying conflict, alarm bells have been ringing; consequently, politicians are paying much closer attention to 'going green'. This is partly out of genuine concern, but equally an electorally conscious practice to give the impression of reining in a situation that is perceived to be spiralling out of control.

Responding to and reinforcing these fears, therefore, UK Prime Minister Gordon Brown's first major statement to parliament in late July 2007 was to spell out a vigorous new security and border strategy. On the other hand, Douglas Alexander, the secretary of state for international development, promised that the UK would help 'to carry out research into climate change adaptation in Africa' (Alexander, 2007). As part of a UKĀ£50 million project, the UK Department for International Development (DFID) will help '32,000 families who live on the shifting sands of the Char lands in Bangladesh ... [to] raise their homes above flood level, helping them to stay safe and build for the future'.

This proactive stance on the home front to strengthen our borders and curb immigration is positioned against a more reactive stance abroad to promote economic development and enable better adaptive capacities for environmental crises to suppress the reasons for migration in the first place (Miliband, 2007a).3 As Sara Curran argues, the focus should be on 'the redirection of international investment in places of migrant origin to stem the flow and reverse the tide' (Curran, 2002). Much like the 'development and remittances instead of migration' policies (De Haas, 2006), the Environmental Transformation Fund - a joint venture of DFID and the UK Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) - 'will support development and poverty reduction through environmental protection and will help developing countries invest in clean energy, avoid deforestation, and adapt to climate change' (De Haas, 2006). Gleditsch et al (2007) state the case more explicitly: 'because environmental disasters in developing countries may lead to greater emigration, providing generous assistance programmes will serve to limit emigration at its source'.

Activists would argue that this support is long overdue. As the biggest climate change perpetrators, it becomes our responsibility to help those most vulnerable to cope with the impacts. However, this willingness to act (at least in rhetoric) is certainly not altruistic in its sentiment - it is the careful manoeuvring that ties aid to diminish migration pressures. Giving this dubious approach credibility due to his credentials as a respected academic in this field, Professor Myers suggests that 'sustainable development represents a sound way to pre-empt the environmental refugee issue in its full scope over the long run' (Myers, 2005). Perhaps unintentionally, Myers has provided developed nations with a politically more acceptable means to prevent migrants from crossing their boundaries - a zero immigration policy with a humanitarian face.

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