London rally urges illegal migrant amnesty

Strangers into Citizens: the case for a one-off regularisation is compelling

05 May 2009: More than 18,000 people yesterday gathered in Trafalgar Square in Central London to ask the Government to give earned Amnesty to undocumented workers.

An alliance of 120 civic institutions – including churches, trade unions, civil rights campaigners and educational establishments – supported the 4 May demonstration. The rally was sponsored by the Citizen Organising Foundation through its high-profile Strangers into Citizens campaign. It has persuaded the Liberal Democrats and Mayor of London Boris Johnson, among many others, to support its "pathway to citizenship" for at least 450,000 of the 750,000 undocumented people it estimates lives in Britain.

strangers_citizens.pngThe national rally called for a pathway to legal rights for undocumented migrants who have made new lives in the UK.

Strangers into Citizens proposes that migrants who have been in the UK for four years or more be granted a two-year work permit. At the end of that period, subject to employer and character references, they should be granted leave to remain.  The case for a one-off regularisation as part of the Government’s overhaul of immigration policy is compelling – on humanitarian, economic, fiscal and administrative grounds.

Before the rally, special services were held in different Churches in London. "My first prayer today is that during a time of recession when there will inevitably be job shortages, we as the church will do all we can not to allow migrant workers from within or outside the European Union to become scapegoats and targets of people’s frustration with the economy," Rt Rev Patrick Lynch, auxiliary bishop of Southwark told a Mass for migrant workers held at Westminster Cathedral.

Bishop Lynch said there was a "clear moral case" that undocumented workers who have lived and worked in this country for five years or more should be given the opportunity to build a future in the United Kingdom and continue to contribute to British society, Ekklesia reported.

"You have worked here – your children have been born here and attend school here – you are part of our parishes and our society here and a way should be found so that you can remain here," he said.

In a separate Anglican service held at St Margaret’s Church, Westminster Abbey, the Bishop of Southwark, the Rt Rev Tom Butler, backed the Strangers into Citizens campaign, Ekklesia reported.

"What is being called for is no idealistic or wild-eyed demand that all barriers should go down. It is simply recognising that those who have been here for four years or more should be given the opportunity to show that they can be productive and useful citizens," Rt Rev Butler said.

"It is a call to bring hundreds of thousands of irregular migrants out of the shadows and after a two year probation period give them leave to remain."

Madgalena is Miss World New Zealand 2009

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