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There is a Business Case for Amnesty | Immigration Matters

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By Gene Alcantara


25 November 2008



Mayor Boris Johnson has opened up a long-overdue but vital debate on illegal immigrants. Those lambasting the London Mayor are going on about irresponsibility and naivety but seem to be missing an important point: that there is in fact a business case for the regularisation of illegal immigrants.


The Government now needs revenue more than ever, as a result of their various actions to deal with the credit crunch, and actually regularisation could be an important additional source of funds. Granting an amnesty would bring in valuable income to the Treasury of over £10bn at least for the next five years, and it would create a lot of goodwill in all communities.


An amnesty would provide for regularisation of illegal migrants which means allowing them to be treated say similar to the soon to be defunct ‘Work Permit’ holders. I know that many of those already in the country are probably already gainfully if illegally employed (how else would they survive?). They might as well be made to pay taxes on their income.


They would not be given any extra privileges, which would simply upset those who came here legally. They would be granted only a one year visa which is renewed 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 at the end of that period. They would of course need to pass Life in the UK Test to gain ILR, failing which they would only be granted annual extensions. While they are on their amnesty years, they would not be entitled to any benefits (again similar to those on annual renewals). After one year on ILR, 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 700,000 illegal immigrants in the UK. We could use the current Home Office ILR fee of £750 and the annual £395 for renewals, and say double them for amnesty applicants because they are a special case (of course it could even be higher as a punitive measure). The Home Office would charge an initial £1,500 per person, bringing in over £1bn in the first year. Annual renewals for a further four years would bring in annual revenues of £553m. This would equate in total to £3.3bn 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 £1.4bn a year, or £7bn 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 £10bn.


  Year 1 Year 2 Year 3 Year 4 Year 5
No. of migrants 700,000 700,000 700,000 700,000 700,000
Fee £1,500 £790 £790 £790 £790
Totals £1,050,000,000 £553,000,000 £553,000,000 £553,000,000 £553,000,000
5 year total £3,262,000,000        
Add NI/taxation £2,000 £2,000 £2,000 £2,000 £2,000
Totals £1,400,000,000
£1,400,000,000 £1,400,000,000 £1,400,000,000 £1,400,000,000
5 year total £7,000,000,000        
Totals £2,450,000,000 £1,953,000,000 £1,953,000,000 £1,953,000,000 £1,953,000,000
5 year total £10,262,000,000        



700,000 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 (e.g. staffing, office costs etc) and to fight illegal entry 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 3,000 staff to deal with all the applications in one year. At £20k per staff member, that would cost £63m, in addition to 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 production.


At present the government seems 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 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 and intensifying our efforts against traffickers and the like.


It should of course be made very clear by the 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 700,000 illegal migrants would also pay dividends for the Government that grants it. The Labour Government may not be too keen on this as they appear to be on the way out, but an incoming Conservative Government should take note. A lot of cultures believe in what is called “debt of gratitude” and no doubt this gratitude would manifest itself in votes come election time. If the monetary value of amnesty does not persuade, then surely this must show them that there is indeed a business case for regularising illegal immigrants. Until we do it, we would not really know.


Gene Alcantara is an OISC-registered Immigration Caseworker with Bison Management UK.

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