Illegal immigrants 'would cost 1m each if granted amnesty'
Illegal immigrants would each cost the taxpayer 1 million over their lifetime if they were granted an amnesty, a think tank warns.
By Tom Whitehead, Home Affairs Editor
Last Updated: 7:52PM BST 03 May 2009
The country would face a total bill of up to 1 trillion if illegal immigrants were granted an amnesty Photo: GETTY
The extra burden on the public purse is the “hidden cost” of unlawful migrants settling and starting families such as the potential drain on the benefits system, according to research by Migrationwatch.
And a similar drain could be felt by asylum seekers who are successful in their claims and allowed to settle here lawfully, the report said.
It means the country would face an eventual bill of up to 1 trillion if it had an amnesty.
It comes as the pro-amnesty group Strangers into Citizens is due to hold a rally in London on Monday calling for a one-off regularisation of illegal immigrants.
London Mayor Boris Johnson has also called for an amnesty and a report by Labour's favourite think tank this weekend claimed it would mean an extra 1 billion in tax payments each year.
The Institute for Public Policy Research (IPPR) said tighter immigration controls and a falling number of immigrants would open the door for the Government to consider such a move.
In contrast, removing the illegal population would cost up to 12bn and take 25 years, it said.
However, Migrationwatch claimed an amnesty would cost the taxpayers in the long run not benefit them.
Chairman Sir Andrew Green said: “Our calculations show the numbers are truly enormous, adding an unacceptable and entirely unnecessary – burden to the nation's balance sheet at a time when Boris Johnson himself is writing about 'the horrific state of the nation's finances'.”
Estimates of the number of illegal immigrants range from half a million to a million, meaning, based on the research, they would cost the country up to 1 trillion.
The Migrationwatch research was based on an illegal immigrant being granted asylum at the age of 25, then earning a minimum wage and going on to have a family with two children, does not have a pension and remains in private rented accommodation.
It estimates that over the course of their lifetime, the family will cost the public on average 1 million in handouts such as housing benefit, child benefits and pension credit after income tax and national insurance payments are deducted.
The paper said the figures are equally applicable to the thousands who are granted asylum each year.
It accepts that some immigrants would earn above the minimum wage or not marry but equally others may be unemployed or have more than two children.
Amnesties in countries such as Spain and Italy have resulted in more illegal immigrants each time around suggesting the policy encourages trafficking not deter it.
Sir Andrew added: “It is clear that not only is rewarding illegal behaviour wrong in principle but the experience of Spain and Italy shows conclusively that it encourages even more illegal immigration in anticipation of future amnesties.
“This is a ridiculous proposal which is bound to increase illegal immigration rather than reduce it. It is also a shocking waste of public money at a time when we can least afford it.”
Matthew Elliott, Chief Executive of the TaxPayers' Alliance, said: “An amnesty for illegal migrants would be unjust and hugely expensive. There is no reason why someone who has broken British law by illegally coming here should suddenly be given access to taxpayers' money and public services.
“As well as landing us with a huge bill, an amnesty would simply send the message out that Britain is somewhere that will let you off if you illegally immigrate, and that will increase the number of people trying it.”
A UK Border Agency spokeswoman said: “Our policy on an amnesty for illegal immigrants remains unchanged and is very clear those here illegally should go home, not go to the front of the queue for jobs and benefits.
“We have a proud tradition of offering sanctuary to those who truly need our help, but to grant an amnesty would create a significant pull factor to the UK and would undermine the asylum system as a whole.
“An amnesty may sound superficially attractive, but ultimately leads to more, not less, exploitation. What start out as good intentions could end up causing more harm, playing into the hands of traffickers who try to smuggle people into the country in dangerous and life-threatening conditions.”
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