Gene Alcantara, Independent Parliamentary Candidate for Hampstead and Kilburn, believes there is a real business case for a form of amnesty or regularisation programme for the estimated 750,000 illegal immigrants currently in the UK.
Gene has contributed the following article.
Immigration finally became an open subject of debate following the Labour Prime Minister’s dreadful mistake of calling an elderly white woman in Rochdale a “bigot”. Now even the white population hopefully realises what the Labour Party and its government think of their feelings and their views, that is, very little and with condescension. Interestingly Mrs Duffy was talking about Eastern European immigration, which is completely legal and about which the country can do nothing about as the UK is part of what is called the European Economic Area. I am more concerned with the question of illegal immigration, and I put forward the argument that there is a business case for an amnesty.
“Amnesty” has become a hot word for the General Election 2010. The Liberal Democrats under Nick Clegg have espoused it, and it is enshrined in their manifesto. They say they would allow illegal immigrants who have been in Britain for 10 years to “earn” British citizenship. Apparently they want to give an amnesty to some 600,000 illegal immigrants in the UK. David Cameron of the Conservative Party pounced on this in their last of 3 debates, accusing Mr Clegg of encouraging more illegal immigration by handing citizenship to more than 600,000 people, who will each bring one dependant each, making a total of 1,200,000 allowed in as a result.
But before anybody jumps up and down, it has to be remembered that it was the Conservative Mayor, Boris Johnson, who opened up a long-overdue but vital debate on illegal immigrants. And even the Speaker of the House of Commons, another Conservative, supports the idea.
“Where people have been here a long time and have no prospect of being able to be sent back then an amnesty could be considered so that they can pay taxes and legally contribute to the British economy.”
– Boris Johnson, Mayor of London, London Mayoral Assembly, 2008
“Strangers Into Citizens has made a compelling case for a one-off regularisation for irregular migrants on humanitarian, economic, fiscal and administrative grounds. I hope that we can work together to build a fair and transparent immigration system.”
– John Bercow, Speaker of the House of Commons
The Labour Government had in fact introduced some forms of amnesty over the years, which they called by other names, presumably to avoid any backlash. Back in 1998 they allowed a Concession for thousands of migrant domestic workers brought here by their employers to enable them to change employers, escape from slavery conditions, gain residence and eventually British citizenship. More recently in 2007 they introduced the Asylum Case Resolution Scheme to deal with a massive backlog of hundreds of thousands of asylum seekers. And of course we must keep in mind their open door policy enabled thousands more people, many potential illegal immigrants, to come in the last year alone.
Those who lambasted the London Mayor went on about irresponsibility and naivety but seemed to be missing an important point: that there is in fact a business case for the regularisation of illegal immigrants. There are of course many humanitarian and economic reasons why people choose to come to the UK and become illegal, rather than stay where they were. But let us not get emotional about the issue, and look at it as a business proposition.
The incoming Government now needs revenue more than ever, as a result of the various actions taken by the previous Labour Government to deal with the credit crunch, and if they ever hope to repay some of the debt they are piling on the British public. Regularisation of unauthorized immigrants could actually provide an important additional source of funds. Granting an amnesty now would bring in valuable income to the Treasury of almost £16.2bn at least over the next five years, and it would create a lot of goodwill in all communities.
An amnesty would provide for regularisation of illegal migrants but we must not necessarily favour them over legal migrants, which means allowing them at least to be treated similarly say to the now defunct ‘Work Permit’ holders. I know that many of those already in the country are probably already gainfully if illegally employed (for how else would they survive?). I know this from my work as an immigration adviser/caseworker. They might as well be made to pay taxes and National Insurance on their income.
They would not be given any extra privileges, which would simply upset those who came here legally. They would be granted initially only a one year visa which they will need to renew every year up to five years during which time they would need to become productive members of society, and then gain indefinite leave to remain (ILR) or permanent residence (PR) at the end of that period (but bear in mind the UK Border Agency wants to lengthen the period before ILR or PR could be earned). They would of course need to pass Life in the UK Test to gain ILR/PR, failing which they would only be granted annual extensions. While they are on their amnesty years, they would not be entitled to any public benefits (again similar to those on legal annual renewals). After one more year on ILR/PR (ie a total of 6 years legally working), they would then have earned the right to apply for British citizenship and all that that entails.
My projections (see table below) are based on the figures bandied about of 1,100,000 illegal immigrants in the UK (The Sun, 26/04/2010). We could use the current personal UK Border Agency ILR/PR fee of £840 and the annual £475 for personal renewals, and say double these for amnesty applicants because they are a special case (of course it could even be higher as a punitive measure). The UKBA could charge an initial £1,680 per person to start an application, bringing in over £1.68bn in the first year. Annual renewals for a further four years with a more expensive final application in Year 5 would bring in annual revenues of £950m+. This would equate in total to more than £6.2bn over the 5 year period.
We could assume then that the ‘amnestinians’ would start paying for NI and tax as soon as they are regularised and using an estimate of £2,000 per person this would bring in revenue of £2bn a year, or £10bn over the 5 years. The expected fees, NI and tax paid by the amnestinians would actually bring in potential revenues to the nation’s coffers to the tune of over £16.2bn. To this total could of course then be added the resultant massive savings in police/UKBA time and other direct expenses such as plane fares. The National Audit Office estimated each forced removal cost on average of £11,000 which when multiplied by 1.1m would equal to £11bn in potential costs if all illegal aliens were deported.
|Year 1||Year 2||Year 3||Year 4||Year 5|
|No. of migrants||1,000,000||1,000,000||1,000,000||1,000,000||1,000,000|
|5 year total||£6,210,000,000|
|5 year total||£10,000,000,000|
|5 year total||£16,210,000,000|
1,100,000 is a huge number. It could be dealt with as a separate ten-year project to allow monitoring of the projected income, and all expenditures for the regularisation (eg staffing, office costs etc) and to fight illegal entry at our borders could be charged to the project. I suggest that at the end of the period, there would be a massive ‘profit’ which would prove the business case.
Staffing of the project would of course be the biggest cost. If we spent just one day per amnestinian, it would require over 5,500 new staff to deal with all the applications in one year. This also however means positive job creations for those in the UK who are legally allowed to work. At £24k per staff member, that would cost £132m, plus the cost of housing the project. The initial processing could of course be spread over 3 years or longer to reduce the pressure on the project, but it will need to show a steady upward trend in productivity.
More recently the government seemed intent and focussed on stopping illegal migration by deporting those they have already let in to the country, at huge expense. But isn’t a more effective strategy to prevent people from coming into the country in the first place? The government should not be terrorising those already in Britain, but instead they should be focussing their efforts on strengthening the role of Entry Clearance Officers as the first line of defence against potential illegal migrants, as well as fortifying our borders, beginning with the French side of things, and intensifying our efforts against traffickers and the like. In my work I meet genuine and legitimate migrants, but I have also met people who arrived in Britain unofficially, or with false passports, or who came as tourists but with no intention of going back.
It should of course be made very clear by the incoming Government that this is the only amnesty they will ever provide, and that following regularisation of the current illegal immigrants the rules would get even tougher to prevent a repeat of this long-standing predicament. A review could then be undertaken in 10 years time to evaluate how successful the scheme has been, and assess the way forward.
Regularising 1,100,000 illegal migrants would also pay dividends for the Government that grants it. The Labour Government is not too keen on this as they appear to be on the way out, but an incoming Conservative Government should take note. The Libdems obviously are very aware of the political profit. A lot of cultures believe in what is called “debt of gratitude” and no doubt this gratitude would manifest itself straightaway in better community relations, and in votes come next election time. If the goodwill created by amnesty does not persuade, then the potential monetary savings and benefits surely demonstrates that there is indeed a business case for regularisation. Until we do it, we would not really know.
[Gene Alcantara is an OISC-registered Immigration Caseworker with Bison UK www.recruitnurse.com , and used to work as an Organisation & Management Consultant for the British Council. He is running as an Independent Parliamentary Candidate for Hampstead and Kilburn.] – http://genealcantara.com