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MPs Call for An Amnesty | Immigration Matters

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Migrant Rally in London – 07 May 2007

Six Members of Parliament (MPs) have laid an early-day motion (EDM) in Parliament, calling for a one-off regularisation of hundreds of thousands of ‘illegal’ immigrants in the UK.

An independent ORB opinion poll, published last week, shows that British people support the idea of a ‘pathway into citizenship’ for long-term migrants who work and pay taxes.

The poll was commissioned by ‘Strangers into Citizens’, a broad-based campaign by the country’s largest alliance of civic institutions, the Citizen Organising Foundation, which includes London Citizens and Birmingham Citizens.

On 7 May as many as 5,000 people braved the Bank Holiday rain to join Strangers into Citizens in the largest-ever rally for justice for migrants in Trafalgar Square. The march was preceded by a special Mass for Migrant Workers at Westminster Cathedral celebrated by the Archbishop of Westminster, Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O’Connor. The doors had to be closed off prior to the start of the Mass as 2,500 people filled the huge Cathedral.

Filipinos at Migrant Rally in London – 07 May 2007

The Cardinal was joined by other faith leaders, trade unionists, politicians, business people, NGOS and Immigration Advisers, in a walk to Trafalgar Square from Westminster calling for an immigration policy which starts from the contribution migrants make.

Speakers in Trafalgar Square, including Cardinal Murphy-O’Connor and representatives of Strangers into Citizens, called for a pathway into citizenship – via a two-year work permit – for migrants who have been in the UK for more than four years.

The campaign has the backing of leading church figures, as well as the Mayor of London, businesses and trade unions (TGWU, Unison). It is also supported by the Immigration Advisory Service, Refugee Action, and the Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants.

Several migrant groups, including Kalayaan and UWA (United Workers Association), attended the peaceful rally in support of the thousands of domestic workers who stand to lose their rights as part of Home Office plans to remove the Domestic Workers Concession.

The EDM, signed by six MPs on Friday reads:

‘That this House: recognises the government’s commitment to tighten UK borders and introduce new monitoring and assessment systems into the Immigrations Process; notes the Home Office assessment that up to 500,000 irregular migrants currently live and work in Britain; recognises that the overwhelming majority make a valuable economic contribution despite living under the shadow of illegality; acknowledges the IPPR estimation that regularisation of certain groups of migrant workers could raise £1bn in taxes; congratulates the ‘Strangers into Citizens’ campaign for the one off regularisation of long term ‘irregular’ migrants through a pathway to citizenship; calls for a full cross-party debate to consider granting a two year work permit to migrants who have lived in the UK for more than four years, following which they are granted ‘Indefinite Leave to Remain’ subject to an English test and positive references from an employer or person of standing in the community’.

Signed by:

Jon Cruddas MP, Labour, Dagenham; Diane Abbott MP, Labour, Hackney North and Stoke Newington; Dr Evan Harris MP, LibDem, Oxford West and Abingdon; Neil Gerrard MP, Labour, Walthamstow; Karen Buck MP, Labour, Regent’s Park and North Kensington; John Bercow MP, Conservative, Buckingham.

Amnesty programmes have been carried out by a number of European countries. Since 1981 there have been more than 20 “regularisations” in France, Belgium, Greece, Italy, Luxembourg, Portugal, and Spain. The largest and most recent was Spain’s in 2005, which regularised 700,000 people.

The Home Office estimates that there are around 500,000 “illegal immigrants”, a combination of visa overstayers and refused asylum seekers, and admits it does not have the resources to deport them (current deportations run at 25,000 a year). It has been estimated that the cost of finding and deporting half-a-million people would run into billions of pounds and take up to twenty years to complete.

Last year, Immigration Minister, Liam Byrne, ruled out an amnesty, despite the fact that he has put forward no firm proposals as to how to deal with the problem.

If you should have any questions on working or studying in the UK email Charles Kelly

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