Amnesty demanded for 500,000 immigrants
Last Updated: 2:05am BST 10/05/2007
A mass rally yesterday called for a one-off amnesty to allow hundreds of thousands of immigrants living in the UK to become full citizens.
(Photo: Thousands of demonstrators, including singer Billy Brag, took part in a protest at Trafalgar Square yesterday.)
The Strangers Into Citizens campaign, which attracted thousands of supporters to Trafalgar Square, proposes that migrants who have been in Britain for more than four years should be given a two year work permit without access to benefits.
Then, at the end of the two years, they would be given indefinite leave to remain, subject to criteria such as an English test, criminal checks and employer references.
Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O'Connor, head of the Catholic Church in England and Wales, who held a multilingual mass at Westminster Cathedral beforehand, told the rally that immigrants deserved to be treated with “fairness, with justice and with dignity”.
Other high-profile figures joining the protest included Dr Tom Butler the Anglican Bishop of Southwark, Labour deputy leadership contender Jon Cruddas, Baroness Shirley Williams and Billy Bragg, the singer and political activist.
Some protesters carried banners reading: “Abolish all racist immigration controls” and “No one is illegal”. However, with both Labour and the Tories now having rejected the idea of an amnesty, the campaign's proposals apparently appear doomed.
Damian Green, shadow home affairs minister, said: “We are not attracted to the idea of an amnesties. Experience from abroad shows that they attract illegal immigration.
“The long-term solution is to have an efficient asylum system which allows people to have their case heard quickly, so that we do not develop the huge backlog from which this government now suffers.
His comments echo those made earlier this month by Liam Byrne, the immigration minister.
He said: “This would severely damage our country. Local authorities are still coping with the pressures on services. If we had the green light for unprecedented immigration they wouldn't be able to handle it.”
(Photo: Campaigners argue that their scheme would end the current explotation of illegal immigrants.)
The campaigners argue that their scheme would end the current exploitation of illegal immigrants and the undercutting of British workers.
It would also mean “huge benefits” for the British state through increased tax revenues,
In addition, they stressed that it would be a one-off amnesty for illegal workers already in this country.
Addressing the rally, Cardinal Murphy-O'Connor said: “We know that there are up to half a million immigrants who are undocumented, and some way should be found for these people who work in our country and contribute to our economy so that their rights are respected.”
'This would make a bad situation worse'
27 December 2006: 'One immigrant a minute enters UK'
Strangers Into Citizens
Migration Watch UK