Rally to urge fairer deal for illegal
· Group seeks citizenship route for 'shadow people'
· Move to legality would boost taxes, says study
Alan Travis, home affairs editor
May 7, 2007
Faith leaders including Anglican and Roman Catholic bishops will join MPs
and trade union leaders today in calling on the government to regularise the
position of an estimated 500,000 illegal migrants living in Britain.
The Trafalgar Square rally, organised by Strangers into Citizens, marks the
launch of the first broad-based campaign to lobby for a "pathway into
citizenship" through a two-year work permit for migrants who have been in
Britain for more than four years so that they can earn a living legally and pay
The rally is being held as MPs prepare to debate the report stage of the
new borders bill to crack down on illegal migrants and deny them access to
It follows an ORB opinion poll showing that 66% of British people
agreed that undocumented migrants who have been in Britain more than four years
should be allowed to stay and not be called illegal. Two-thirds also believe
that asylum seekers should be allowed to work while they wait for their claims
to be determined.
Austen Ivereigh, the coordinator of the Strangers into Citizens
campaign, said it wanted to highlight the plight of the "shadow people" who were
condemned, often for years, to a limbo of fear and furtiveness.
"The Home Office estimates there are around 500,000 illegal immigrants,
a combination of visa overstayers and refused asylum seekers, and admits it does
not have the resources to deport them, with current removals running at 25,000 a
He said naturalisation programmes had already been introduced by Spain,
Germany and the US as part of a border enforcement strategy and were about
extending the rule of law, not undermining it.
I think this is very obviously a good idea, and it will very obviously be attacked for entirely predictable reasons.
It will be criticised because it is a) rewarding criminals, and b) will encourge more illegal migrants as Britain will be seen as soft on illegal immigrants, and c) because it may be a security risk. Neither claim stands up.
First, it isn't rewarding criminals - it is allowing those who have lived a law abiding life in all other respects to formalise their immigration status. If an illegal immigrant has worked hard and not committed any crime over a period of years, aren't they exactly the sort of immigrant we want? Take away the illegal part of the label and we'll have a model citizen.
As for being soft on illegal immigrants, I don't think it will make much difference. The number of immigrants is already high. I wonder if it can feasibly get much higher, but, even if it can, I don't think the number of illegal immigrants will increase if this measure was introduced. Look at the home countries of migrants (forgetting the Aussie and Kiwi overstayers, of course) - Afghanistan, Iraq, allsorted Africa countries torn by strife. Most of these people are motivated by fear and desperation. Learning that, if they manage to sneak into Britain, survive for five years or so in the black economy, without access to public services, and keep their noses absolutely clean, they might, MIGHT be allowed to stay on legally isn't much of a sales pitch. It isn't going to prompt a tidal wave of people straggling through the Chunnel and spilling, half aphixiated, out of lorries from Europe.
Finally, the security risk claim is obviously nonsense. These people are already here, but we have no idea who they ar, where they are and how many there are. If Islamic Terrorists wanted to infiltrate Britain and carry out atrocities, they could do it right now, probably. They certainly won't bother infiltrating, working illegally at a kebab shop for five years and then identifying themselves to the police - what would be the sense in that? If they wanted to get in legally, they could probably arrange it. If they wanted to get in illegally, they could probably arrange it. Why go for the 'third way'?
Like I said, the people who will benefit from this legislation are exactly the sort of people Britain want. Also, once their position is regularised, they will be in the tax system, contributing. On top of that, it will also mean less tax money has to be squandered on the pointless and seemingly impossible job of tracking down and deporting illegal immigrants. Resources will be concentrated on the true criminal class, instead of being wasted on a basically decent bunch of hard working people. Also, we can make it a condition that the immigrants seeking naturalisation must help the police (or whoever) with their investigations into the people traffickers who brought the illegal immigrants to Britain in the first place - meaning the real criminals will be morelikely to be punished.
Of course, this is all far to sensible to happen. Instead, it will be buried under the usual howls of "PC gone mad", wailing about "Uncontrollable immigration" and general drivel.
Final thought - when you read the term 'Illegal immigrant', what image does it conjure in your mind? A shifty Arab intent on imposing Sharia Law on Britain? A teenage Russian sex worker? The cute Aussie barmaid at your local who stayed on after her visa ran out?