Call for selective amnesty for illegal migrants
Tuesday August 28, 2007
The Liberal Democrats will renew pressure on the government to grant a “selective amnesty” to many of the estimated 500,000 illegal immigrants living in Britain – providing they are proving to be good potential citizens.
“Those who merit it should be brought in from the shadows,” Nick Clegg, the party's home affairs spokesman, said yesterday. He confirmed that next month's Brighton conference will debate the controversial option to which the US and other countries with porous borders have been forced to use as a means of regularising a chaotic system which costs billions in lost taxes.
“Frankly this is just in recognition of the fact that, because of incompetence or mismanagement in the immigration system over many years, we have very large numbers of people who live in this twilight world of illegality and – in many cases – exploitation in the workplace which we need to deal with,” Mr Clegg told Radio 4's Today.
The Lib Dem blueprint for “earned legalisation” would be for long-stay illegals, who have no criminal record and speak good English, as well as demonstrate a civic commitment.
Ministers have routinely ruled out the option as an encouragement to further illegal arrivals, preferring to say they are imposing tougher entry controls and better enforcing deportation of illegals and over-stayers.
However, the current immigration minister, Liam Byrne, has refused to rule it out.
The IPPR thinktank has estimated that it would cost nearly 5bn to deport all illegal residents – where estimates range between 300,000 and 900,000 – in contrast to between 1bn and 3bn in tax that an amnesty might bring in.
Illegal residents represent a “significant benefit” to the economy, Mr Clegg insisted.