Strangers into Citizens: “Regularisation of 450,000 has to be part of any immigration policy” 9th March 2009: The campaigners behind Boris Johnson’s backing for an immigrant amnesty have welcomed revised figures on the UK’s irregular migrant population as closer to reality.
Strangers into Citizens Campaign said that the Government could no longer ignore mounting calls for a one-off regularisation.
The interim report by the London School of Economics (LSE) “Economic impact on London and the UK of an earned regularisation of irregular migrants in the UK” found there were approximately 725,000 irregular immigrants in then UK.
The new figures are considerably higher than a Home Office estimate based on 2001 census data which estimated that there were around 500,000 illegal immigrants in the country.
The Mayor commissioned the report in November 2008 to explore the implications of an earned amnesty in the capital. We have consistently said that the Home Office figures were too low and that 700-800,000 was more realistic”, said Strangers into Citizens policy director, Dr Austen Ivereigh.
“We welcome confirmation of the reality by a leading research institution. We can now have more realistic discussion about what to do.”
“An IPPR report in 2006 said it would take 25 years and cost £5bn to deport an irregular population of 500,000,” he added. “The new figures show it would take 34 years and cost nearly £8 billion to clear the backlog of people who are currently in the UK illegally.”
“If it was completely impossible back then to claim that deportation was a solution, it is even more impossible in the light of the new figures.”
The LSE estimates that if a 5-year residence requirement were applied – which the mayor supports – some 450,000 people would be eligible for regularisation with a lower estimate of 325,000 and an upper estimate of 590,000.
Strangers into Citizens argues for a four-year residence requirement followed by a two-year “pathway” in which migrants work legally and apply at the end of it with employer and other credentials.
“The only realistic and humane policy now is some form of regularisation by means of a residency test, criminal record checks and character and employer references as Spain did in 2005 when it regularised 700,000 people,” Dr Ivereigh added.
“You might agree with our proposal, mayor Johnson’s or the Liberal-Democrat party’s. But what you cannot do is pretend that there is a realistic alternative to regularisation.”
A pathway into citizenship would bring untold benefits to the economy and to the exchequer, while helping to curb further illegal immigration by shrinking the underground economy on which people-trafficking thrives, Dr Ivereigh said.
“Combined with the border-tightening policies now advocated by all parties, regularisation of 450,000 has to be part of any immigration policy,” he said.
“Destitution and illegality are not policies worthy of a western country. They don’t work, and attempts at tightening borders without at the same time regularising the undocumented population are in contradiction. It’s time for a policy which benefits everyone”.
Strangers into Citizens is a campaign by the Citizen Organising Foundation, known in London as LONDON CITIZENS, an alliance of more than 120 religious congregations, schools, charities and trade union branches.
The campaign’s origins lie in a call by the Archbishop of Westminster, Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O’Connor, at a Mass for Migrant Workers at Westminster Cathedral organised by LONDON CITIZENS in May 2006.
In May 2007 a similar Mass was followed by a rally of 20,000 in Trafalgar Square. The event is being repeated on 4 May this year, with special religious services also being held in central London churches and mosques prior to another rally in the Square.
Strangers into Citizens campaigners have persuaded the Liberal-Democrat party as well as London’s mayor to back the idea.
Boris Johnson pledged to support the campaign’s proposals at a LONDON CITIZENS assembly in April 2008 prior to his election as mayor.
On that occasion he told the assembly: "If an immigrant has been here for a long time and there is no realistic prospect of returning them, then I do think that person’s condition should be regularised so that they can pay taxes and join the rest of society”.
On 21 November 2008 the mayor gave an interview to Channel 4 News in which he backed the idea and announced he was commissioning research into the economic implications of an amnesty.