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Removing illegal migrants in the UK could cost £12bn

Tighter immigration controls could enable an amnesty for illegal immigrants say IPPR

04 May 2009: Tighter immigration controls and falling number of immigrants could open the door for the government to consider giving illegal migrants legal status to live and work in the UK (regularisation) says the Institute for Public Policy Research (ippr).

The UK’s leading progressive think tank has set out a series of recommendations which would enable the government to deal with the existing population of illegal immigrants in the UK in a sensible and humane way, without encouraging more to come in the future.

construction_workers.pngIPPR has estimated that if the Government made current illegal migrants legal (regularised) they would pay well in excess of £1bn in tax per year. ippr has also estimated that removing all illegal (irregular) migrants in the UK could cost up to twelve billion pounds and take around twenty five years.

In a briefing published on Sunday 3rd May, ippr sets out a series of policy ideas for reducing both the supply of and demand for irregular migrants.

These include: Enhanced development support for the poor countries which produce irregular migrants; Better information services for would-be migrants in their home countries (to deter illegal migration); Creating more legal routes for migration (particularly for the low skilled) – including piloting ‘circular migration’ programmes which allow some irregular migrants to go home but return to the UK legally in the future; Making compliance with immigration rules simpler and more flexible for both migrants and employers; More effective targeting of smugglers and traffickers; and Working with trusted migrant agencies to design enforceable and sustainable return arrangements.

Tim Finch, ippr’s Head of Migration said: “ippr supports the notion of ‘earned regularisation’ not least because we think it is the only way of dealing with a problem that is otherwise impossible to resolve. We know it is politically difficult, particularly for a government which is struggling to shed a reputation for being ‘soft’ on immigration. But the government now has systems in place to control and manage migration that are starting to bite, so it has some space to deal with the sizeable irregular population in a sensible and humane way.

“Regularisation won’t work as a "stand alone policy" but we believe if the policies we have outlined are adopted, there is scope for the government to introduce routes for irregular migrants to earn their legal status. Not everyone would qualify, some would only be given temporary visas, and getting regularised would not be an easy option. The government could apply some of the ideas it has proposed in its ‘earned citizenship’ proposals – such as the need to show a contribution to the economy or society, and sponsorship from a reputable organisation."


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