Amnesty for illegals ‘no answer’ to failure of immigration policy

May 25, 2006

An amnesty for illegal immigrants is not the answer to the crisis facing the UK and should be firmly rejected because it would simply make the existing problem worse, says a new report out today.

The Migrationwatch report examined the experience of the UK and Europe
(see report) and finds that in comparable countries where amnesties have been tried the only effect has been increased numbers at each amnesty.

In the past 20 years Italy has granted five amnesties and Spain six. The result has been to replace those granted an amnesty with others willing to work at or below the minimum wage so creating a downward spiral of opportunity for unskilled workers.

In the case of Spain an amnesty in 1985/6, involved 44,000 people. Five amnesties later (2005) the number was 700,000. Once admitted to an EU country there is nothing stopping those people travelling freely throughout continental Europe.

Migrationwatch estimate that the illegal population in the UK is in the range 515,000 to 870,000.

‘The clear evidence is that amnesties make a bad situation worse. They are also extremely expensive for the tax payer. For a start, an amnesty would add half a million people to the housing lists as the local authorities would become responsible for their housing. It is also quite wrong in principle to reward illegal behaviour with full access to the welfare state,’ said Sir Andrew Green, Migrationwatch chairman.’

He said that, while it would not be possible to enforce the removal of such large numbers, a much better and cheaper approach was “reduction by attrition”. The key lay in the labour market since most illegal immigrants come initially to work and send money home. It was essential to enforce the new penalties for employers of illegal labour who were often exploiting illegal immigrants. The overall effect of illegal working was to hold down the wages of low paid British workers. The present chaos was bad for them and bad for our society as a whole.

‘At present the record of enforcement in Britain is incredibly poor. In the period 1997 - 2003 only nine employers were found guilty of employing an illegal immigrant. In 2004 only 3,332 illegal migrant workers were detected in Home Office operations,’ he said.

Stronger powers to penalise employers who employ (knowingly or otherwise) individuals who are illegally in Britain have just come into force.

‘However, the effectiveness of this change in the law is undermined by the Government’s admission that very few full time immigration officers will be dedicated to its enforcement,’ said Sir Andrew.

‘A greater focus on implementing the new laws will have far more effect than the ‘fools gold’ of an amnesty that is bound to fail.’

[1] Migrationwatch Briefing Paper: 9.15. (

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