The head of the Catholic Church in England and Wales grieves ‘exploitation of those who live beneath the radar’ 24 November 2008. Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O’Connor, England’s senior Catholic, has called on the Government to provide an amnesty for illegal immigrants who have been resident in the UK for several years – backing the proposal of London Mayor Boris Johnson.
Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O’Connor told to BBC Radio 4’s Sunday programme that large numbers of migrants who live below the radar are easily exploited because they have no official status, and that more should be done to "appreciate the gifts" they bring.
"A lot of the people who come are quite vulnerable and can easily be threatened and exploited," said the archbishop.
"But I think also there is a point about some migrants who come here and are here for years and they are undocumented. After a certain time a way should be given for them to receive citizenship here and so get the benefits of that."
Mr Boris Johnson answered: "I welcome the Cardinal’s comments. It’s clear there is a case to consider here and no debate would be undone by being better informed."
The Cardinal’s comments come after Boris Johnson called last Friday for an "earned amnesty" for thousands of illegal immigrants living in London. The London Mayor is to commission a study of the benefits of an amnesty, which puts him at odds with his party leader, David Cameron.
Johnson is willing to depart from the Conservative party line in his belief that an estimated 400,000 people who have lived illegally in the capital for years should have the chance to "earn" their citizenship in order to play a full part in London life, including paying their taxes.
The Institute for Public Policy Research estimates that the extra fiscal regularisation of illegal workers would bring the Exchequer between £500m and £1bn in extra tax revenues.
Sir Andrew Green, chairman of Migration Watch UK, said that it was "frankly irresponsible" to talk of an amnesty during the current economic crisis. "The experience of other countries like Italy and Spain is that amnesties simply produce yet more applicants every time," he said.