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Illegal immigrant amnesty in London

"A way out of the mess" – this is the mayor of London’s proposal

22 November 2008. The Boris Johnson called last night 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, he told Channel 4 News, claiming that the notion that they will one day be deported from the UK is "just not going to happen".

An earned amnesty for illegal immigrants who had been in Britain a long time would produce “hugely increased” tax revenues.

Boris Johnson stressed he was not seeking to set up incentives for illegal immigration, but to regularise and decriminalise those already in the system.

The Mayor said that,"You don’t want to create moral hazard, but I think you should have a system whereby people who have been here for a long time can earn a way out of the mess they’re in".

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.

"We want to look in detail at what the economic impact of such an earned amnesty system would be," said Johnson.

"There are about 400,000 in London. That’s a huge number. In principle these people have done the wrong thing: they’ve broken the law. In principle they should all be taken and sent back to their place of origin, that’s the right thing to do … (but) unfortunately it is just not going to happen."

Although he has no legal powers over immigration policy, Johnson said he wanted to "lead the debate" on the issue.

Johnson argued that a mass "programme of expulsions" would be costly and legally difficult. Instead, he said, would be more sensible to introduce "earned amnesty", meaning that after a period of about five years individuals could "show their commitment to this society and to this economy" to earn the right to stay.

Johnson made proposals for an amnesty during his election campaign. At that time, the Conservative leader, David Cameron, commented that amnesties "just store up" the need for further amnesties in the future.

A Tory spokesman said last night: "We will have to agree to differ on this. One-off amnesties have been tried elsewhere and the evidence is that they do not work, but lead to more."

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