The Mayor of London is to commission a study to examine the viability of an amnesty for illegal immigrants in the capital.
Boris Johnson said that deporting thousands of people working illegally in the UK was “just not going to happen”.
He told Channel 4 News that allowing long-term illegal immigrants to earn the right to stay would see “hugely increased” tax revenues.
But Immigration Minister Phil Woolas, who recently broke the party line by calling for an overall cap on immigration, said the suggestion was “naive” and would lead to more trafficking of people.
Mr Woolas said:
“I think this is naive of the Mayor. His comments might start with the best of intentions but will lead to more people traffickers making more money and exploiting more vulnerable individuals.”
Of the 700,000 illegal immigrants thought to be in the UK, about 400,000 are in London.
Mr Johnson said:
“What I want to do is to commission a study by my own economics team here at the Greater London Authority into the possibility [of an amnesty].”
“We want to look in detail at what the economic impact of such an earned amnesty system would be.”
The outspoken Mayor acknowledge that illegal immigrants who had broken the law and should “in principle” be deported, but he added: “Unfortunately it is just not going to happen.”
Mr Johnson said that whilst he did not want to encourage illegal immigration, there were significant legal and financial obstacles to mass deportations.
He suggested that those allowed to stay would have to have at least five years’ residency. They must also be able to demonstrate their commitment “to this society and to this economy”.
“There’s got to be a very substantial period in which they have been in this country.
“I think that we could have other hoops that they might have to go through in order to be able to qualify for an earned amnesty scheme.
“For instance, it might be necessary to have a clean criminal record. It might be important that they should go through various citizenship tests, the kind we already have.
“And there might be some sort of financial obligations that they have to meet as well.”
Migrationwatch UK said the proposal was “amazing” with a recession looming.
Chairman Sir Andrew Green said: “An amnesty would also add hundreds of thousands to the housing lists.”
Mr Woolas said the UK Border Agency was committed to stopping illegal migration.
“We are putting in place the biggest shake-up of the immigration system for 45 years and we are seeing the results of this.”
He added: “We are putting more resources into expelling foreign law breakers and last year we removed one person every eight minutes.”
The announcement will not please Mr Johnson’s own Conservative party which, like Mr Woolas, favours a cap on immigration.
There are some 500,000 and 700,000 illegal immigrants living in Britain, some of whom have been found working in the Home Office. The Home Office has estimated it would take more than 30 years to deport them all – by which time many would have applied to stay under the 14 year concession.
Last year the Institute for Public Policy Research (IPPR) claimed it would cost £4.7 billion to remove all of the illegal immigrants in the UK.
The Government has yet to come up with a workable solution to this problem, but has always ruled out a wholesale amnesty for illegal immigrants.UK ‘outside the rules’.
With an election looming and Labour down in the polls, a full amnesty for illegal immigrants and overstayers looks an unlikely prospect. More likely are ‘concessions’, such as the 1998 Domestic Workers Concession, which may allow certain groups to remain in the
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