ACCORDING to reports in Ireland, some 17,000 undocumented immigrants will be eligible for a scheme that will give them the legal right to stay in the country.
Minister for Justice Helen McEntee said that the ‘Regularisation of Long Term Undocumented Migrants scheme’, which is open for six months, will consider applicants with a minimum of four years undocumented residence in Ireland, or three years in the case of those with children.
Those with an existing deportation order may also apply once they meet the minimum undocumented residence requirement, as can those with expired student permissions.
This is a very serious mistake. Amnesties have been tried before by most of the major countries in Europe and on every occasion have made a bad situation worse. You will find a more detailed analysis in our paper here.
Those let off for illegal behaviour and given the right to stay are simply replaced by subsequent waves of illegal immigrants into the black economy, who also hope to remain undetected for long enough to be regularised. No doubt Ireland’s government feels it is taking a humanitarian approach but the evidence from similar amnesties has been clear. All it leads to is ever larger numbers entering or staying illegally in the knowledge that in time they will be allowed to stay. Indeed, human traffickers and fixers often use this as a marketing tool to persuade would-be migrants to part with large sums of money to get to wealthy countries.
Italy granted five amnesties in the past 20 years and saw the number of applications for regularisation more than double, from 119,000 to 308,000 between 1987 and 1998. Spain has granted multiple amnesties. Similarly, the number of applications of regularisation there more than doubled between 1991 and 2001, from 135,000 to 314,000.
Having granted two mass amnesties in 1981 and 1997, each involving about 150,000 people, the French authorities concluded that they had simply encouraged further waves of illegal immigration, leading the Interior Minister to announce in May 2005 that further amnesties were ‘completely out of the question’.
Despite this the French government continued to offer work permits to illegal migrants on a case-by-case basis – something that has failed to tackle the ongoing problem of illegal immigration in France and may have exacerbated it.
Indeed, Pew Research estimated that between 300,000 and 400,000 unauthorised immigrants were living in France in 2017. Its estimate for the UK was between 800,000 and 1.2million (the largest number in Europe!)
So-called amnesties (in effect the mass pardoning of those who have broken the law) also have deleterious consequences for local workers. One set of academics found that Spain’s pardoning policy ‘disproportionately affected the labour market outcomes of workers in high-immigrant locations’ and ‘worsened employment opportunities for both low-skilled natives and immigrants’.
Boris Johnson has, from time to time, voiced his support for amnesties. Indeed, there were signs that he was preparing to introduce one before the Channel boat crisis got going. We would like to think that our well-supported 2019 petition calling on the government to think again helped dissuade him from such a half-baked policy.
Talking of petitions, Migration Watch launched one a few weeks ago to draw attention to the government’s spineless attempts to hide the daily numbers of people illegally crossing the Channel in boats. Censoring the data is an affront to democracy and the public. You can find it here. Please sign then share it.
However, this article is essentially about the Dublin government’s, superficially humane but ultimately naïve and wrong-headed proposal to grant amnesty to irregular migrants. I say to them, with all due respect and in your own interests, as well as those of the UK, don’t do it. The Common Travel Area makes this as much our concern as it is yours. The last thing we need is another back door to the UK for those who have lived illegally in Ireland for years and then been granted amnesty.