IN his first statement to the House of Commons as Prime Minister, Boris Johnson suggested that the government would ‘look at’ an amnesty for illegal immigrants.
Mr Johnson had already indicated during his leadership campaign that such a scheme could apply to those who have been in the UK illegally for 15 years.
He first mooted the idea for an amnesty for illegal immigrants when he was campaigning to be Mayor of London. With respect to our new Prime Minister, he was wrong then and he is wrong now.
The implication of such a proposal is that if you break the law and remain undetected for 15 years you will qualify for the right to remain in the UK permanently and be granted the right to working age and retirement benefits (whether or not you have paid taxes or made National Insurance contributions), very likely having already enjoyed free health care, education and other services.
This makes no sense and it is not something that most adults in the UK, who have dutifully paid their taxes and National Insurance contributions, will regard as fair or reasonable.
That is why we are inviting the public to sign a petition – ‘Rule out any prospect of granting an amnesty on illegal immigration’ – on the Government Petitions website. The number of signatures surpassed 17,000 in just over a week.
Adding your signature will help to send a clear and unambiguous message that such an amnesty would send all the wrong signals, be totally counter-productive and be little more than manna for the traffickers. Let’s not forget that 77 per cent of the public see illegal immigration as a serious problem facing the country.
Amnesties do not wipe the slate clean, as some seem to think. Instead they encourage more illegal migration, with more and more people believing that they too will eventually be allowed to settle if they keep their heads down for long enough.
Migration Watch UK have published an analysis which argues that:
· The Home Office estimated in 2001 that there were 430,000 illegal immigrants in the UK. By 2004 that could well have surpassed half a million. The latest estimate, from a former Head of Enforcement, is more than a million. Migration Watch UK have found this number is increasing by an estimated net total of at least 70,000 a year.
· Amnesties don’t work as a solution to illegal immigration. They have been tried five times in Italy, six times in Spain and twice in France in the past 20 years or so. In nearly all cases there were more applications each time. In May 2005, the French Interior Minister declared that further amnesties were ‘completely out of the question’.
· Amnesties are grossly unfair to regular migrants who take the time and care to follow the appropriate processes.
· An amnesty would likely be costly for the taxpayer.
· Enforcement is already hugely inadequate. The number of removals has fallen sharply in recent years as hardworking staff charged with enforcing the borders have been hampered by an absence of resources and a dearth of government commitment.
Any comparisons with Windrush victims are absurd. They were innocent citizens with every right to be here.
The Commons Home Affairs Select Committee got it right when it called for much more effective action by the Home Office to process cases and remove those who no longer have the right to be here as rapidly and humanely as possible. It is also what the public wants and has every right to expect of its government.
Stepping up enforcement is the only sensible and realistic way forward as it would establish a disincentive, rather than an incentive, for illegal immigration.
It is crucial to make clear the strength of public opinion so as to head off this absurd proposal. Sign now using this link.