Archives for March 2009

Has the time come for an immigration amnesty?

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Raphael Rowe | 12:31 UK time, Wednesday, 4 March 2009

I'm looking at the highly charged debate of an amnesty for illegal immigrants who have been living and working in this country for a very long time.

The Mayor of London, Boris Johnson, is leading the debate towards the idea of an earned amnesty for "irregular immigrants" who've been living in this country for a number of years.

This programme has taken me to meet 'illegals' living among us and in the shadows of our society. Having never reported a story on immigration I was open minded about what I would learn and what I would be able to share with you.

The first piece of information I really wanted to find out was, how serious a problem the Home Office are dealing with, how many illegal immigrants are there? I was able to put this to the Immigration Minister Phil Woolas. All I can say is that what he said surprised me, especially against the backdrop of the recent outcry about British jobs for British workers.

Some of the other stuff I discovered really did amaze me. I'm not giving anything away by telling you ahead of broadcast (scheduled for 9th March) that I could not believe illegal immigrants vote. Yes I said vote. Seems cheeky but they really consider themselves as part of our societies having dodged capture and removal for many years.

And that's likely to continue, if nothing else because of the sheer scale of the problem.

The National Audit Office estimate that the average cost of an enforced return is £11,000. A 2005 Home Office report stated that there were approximately 430,000 illegal immigrants in the UK, which means it would cost £4.7 billion to remove them.

Then of course there's the question of time. Last month the Home Office published figures which showed that for 2008 the total number of enforced removals and notified departures for asylum and non asylum cases was 21,110. So it would take 20 years to clear the 430,000 total.

This is one of the reasons some people are saying we need to try something else with those already here and tighten up the entry so no-one else can get in. Interesting debate.

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