Half a million illegal immigrants should be given the right to stay in Britain, a think tank has said. But Government action is required to protect thousands of legal migrants currently working in the UK from deportation.
The Institute for Public Policy Research (IPPR) says an amnesty for illegal immigrants would bring in £1bn in extra taxes, and save £4.7bn in costs to deport people.
It is urging Home Secretary, Jacqui Smith, to adopt the move, saying a large scale deportation would never happen.
The Home Office said an amnesty was unnecessary and would create “a strong pull for waves of illegal migration”.
It is not known how many illegal immigrants are in the UK, with estimates varying widely from 300,000 to 900,000.
The Home Office has estimated it would take more than 30 years to deport them all, by which time many would apply to stay under the 14 year concession.
Danny Sriskandandarajah, head of migration and equalities at the Institute for Public Policy Research, said: “The simple truth is that we are not going to deport hundreds of thousands of people from the UK.
“Our economy would shrink and we would notice it straightaway in uncleaned offices, dirty streets and unstaffed pubs and clubs.
“So we have a choice: make people live in the shadows, exploited and fearful for the future; or bring them into the mainstream, to pay taxes and live an honest life.”
The report highlights the fact that Spain’s latest regularisation programme resulted in around 700,000 workers being allowed to stay, increasing Spanish tax revenue by an estimated €750 million per year.
Immigration Minister Liam Byrne has repeatedly ruled out a wholesale amnesty for illegal immigrants, however, a more targeted ‘concession’ may be more politically acceptable.
“Removing half a million people could cost £4.7 billion” IPPR
In a previous study the IPRR said trying to remove the almost half a million people living in the country illegally could cost as much as £4.7 billion annually and was “simply not feasible, nor is it desirable.”
Shadow Home Secretary David Davis said other countries which had granted such an amnesty “found it creates an unstoppable stream of illegal immigration”.
“The state of our porous borders means that granting an amnesty for around 500,000 would quickly lead to thousands more taking their place,” he said.
However, Danny Sriskandandarajah points out:
“Next year’s planned introduction of compulsory biometric ID cards for all foreign nationals in the UK offers an opportunity not only to strengthen our borders but to take effective action on illegal working.”
The pressure group Migrationwatch UK has argued that an amnesty on illegal immigrants would put too much pressure on council housing.
Trade unions recently said migrant workers who come to the UK legally had boosted the economy.
The TUC said the amount of tax paid by migrants exceeded the cost of supplying public services.
Amnesty for legal migrants
Immigration Matters has covered the ”amnesty” question in a number of previous articles. In May 2007 we reported that six MP’s laid down an early-day motion (EDM) in Parliament, calling for a one-off regularisation of hundreds of thousands of ‘illegal’ immigrants in the UK.
Although it might sound like a contradiction in terms, we would argue that there is a need for an “amnesty”, or more precisely a concession, for those workers who are legally in the UK, but under threat of removal due to unforeseen rule changes.
Senior Carers, Domestic Workers and even highly skilled migrants are all victims of unfair and retrospective immigration rule changes which could force thousands of valuable workers out of the UK if left unchecked.
In April 2006 the Government increased the qualifying period for Infinite Leave to Remain (permanent residency) from four to five years, which has effectively pulled the rug from under the feet of working migrants including thousands of Nurses and Carers.
In August 2006 General Nurses were removed from the shortage occupations list making it harder to renew work permits and visas for Nurses.
In December 2006 rule changes on the Highly Skilled Migrant Programme (HSMP) led to widespread protests as migrants marched on Parliament and took the Government to court.
More recently Senior Carers have found it almost impossible to renew their Work Permits despite the fact that the published criteria has not changed. This latest move has stunned care industry employers, already struggling to recruit and retain staff.
Employers all over the UK have taken our advice and written to their local MP’s in protest against what they see as underhand dealing by a Government hell bent on getting rid of non-EU workers.
Amnesty for illegal immigrants and overstayers? Fine, but let’s not forget those legal, working migrants who are making a valuable contribution to the UK, as well as paying hundreds of millions in taxes, whose Work Permits and visas are under threat.
If you are worried about your future in the UK email Charles Kelly
For all the latest Home Office announcements see www.immigrationmatters.co.uk
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