Boris welcomes LSE report that suggests immigrant amnesty would produce £3bn boost to economy
Jonathan and I did not set out this morning to upset readers but I guess that his case for John Bercow and my support for Boris Johnson's amnesty for long-term illegal immigrants will both succeed in enraging most of you.
I used to be instinctively against an amnesty - or 'earned regularisation' as Team Boris likes to call it - but started to change my mind a year or so ago when I read an article by Anthony Browne who oversees policy for London's Mayor. Browne set out the three options very clearly:
- We can oversee a massive deportation of illegal immigrants but "no country that sees itself as civilised wants to send immigration officials into schools, yanking distraught children away from their distressed classmates." There is also the stubborn fact that Britain has a very poor record at deporting large numbers. An estimated two-thirds of illegal immigrants have been here for more than five years. Do we really believe that that is going to change?
- We can accept the status quo where immigrants and their children live in a limbo land - half in the economy and half out.
- Or third we can offer immigrants an 'earned regularisation' if they haven't committed crimes.
I suspect Britain will end up muddling along with option two because politicians lack the courage to either deport or to regularise but a report from the London School of Economics suggests that there are economic benefits from pursuing the third option. Reported by the BBC and Telegraph the study suggests a £3bn-a-year boost to the economy including nearly an extra £1bn in tax revenues.
Boris has taken the lead in this policy because more than a third of Britain's 600,000 illegal immigrants live in London. I only support an amnesty as part of a comprehensive immigration policy. It will only work if we have effective border controls and, in a ideal world, that would mean a new deal with the EU so that Britain has full control of the numbers of people entering our country.
Both the Conservative and Labour frontbenches oppose an amnesty (the Liberal Democrats are supportive) but I've come to see earned regularisation as a humane policy. Today's LSE report suggests that it is economically beneficial too.
12.15pm: MigrationWatchUK has issued this statement:
"These are very expensive proposals which would only make a bad situation worse. On the report’s own figures they would cost £300,000m in bureaucracy and £3m a week in benefits (our figure is £10m a week). It would also cost £6bn to provide the extra social housing needed.
Worse still, it would encourage still further illegal immigration as other countries have found. Italy has granted five amnesties in the last twenty years and Spain six; on virtually every occasion there were more applications each time. The report has no answer to this, it just remarks that it would only happen if border controls were ineffective.
But that is exactly the position we still face. We issue two million visas a year and there will be no full checks on departure until 2014, obviously, those granted an amnesty would be replaced at the drop of a hat.
The public have the common sense to see this. Our opinion poll showed seventy per cent opposed to an amnesty.
The recent European elections must surely be a lesson to the political class that they can no longer ride roughshod over public opinion with absurd, expensive and self-defeating proposals such as these. It seems that Boris Johnson is trying to buy the immigrant vote with taxpayer's money. They will know how to respond to this.’"