Amnesty for Illegal Immigrants Could Cost Taxpayers 'Up to £1m' Per Family

May 04, 2009

At a time when the Government debt is at record levels, new research shows that the Mayor of London’s proposals for an amnesty for illegal immigrants would cost taxpayers, on average, an extra £1 million over the lifetime of each immigrant.

The calculation, by think tank Migrationwatch has, for the first time, estimated the ‘lifetime cost’ to the taxpayer of a 25 year old illegal immigrant who marries and has two children while earning close to the minimum wage.

Such an amnesty, for potentially up to a million people, has been proposed by a number of organisations and individuals but they have failed to consider the ‘hidden costs’ which will have massive implications for the public finances, says the report.

‘Our calculations show the numbers are truly enormous, adding an unacceptable – and entirely unnecessary - burden to the nation’s balance sheet at a time when Boris Johnson himself is writing about “the horrific state of the nation’s finances”,’ said Sir Andrew Green, Migrationwatch chairman.

Sir Andrew said that the paper concentrated on the costs of an amnesty for illegal immigrants but the figures are equally applicable to many of those who are granted asylum in Britain. While some will have qualifications and will be able to earn considerably more than the minimum wage, for others the entitlements, and therefore the costs, will be the same adding further to the demands on the public purse. This makes the failure of the Home Office to be represented at many asylum appeals all the more reprehensible.

The Migrationwatch paper examines the ‘total lifetime’ cost of a 25 year old immigrant who works for the minimum wage, marries, has two children, does not have a pension and therefore in retirement receives Pension Credit, and lives throughout in private rented housing. The calculations in this paper take the costs from the date of marriage at aged 25 through 40 years of work to retirement at 65 years of age and then 15 years of retirement.

The major component of the costings is Housing Benefit. An immigrant couple living on the minimum wages who then retire on Pension Credit, will receive Housing Benefit and Council Tax Benefit throughout their working life and throughout their retirement. The total Housing Benefit they receive will be £291,000 plus a further £19,000 in Council Tax Benefit.

In London, where some 70% of illegal immigrants are believed to live, the costs are even greater. As rents are considerably higher in the capital the total lifetime costs for a two child family resident in London is £1.1million, of which £505,000 is Housing Benefit and Council Tax Benefit.

‘Clearly some of these immigrants will already be married, or will not marry, and some will work above the minimum wage so that their Housing Benefit will be lower,’ said Sir Andrew. ‘On the other hand some may have families of more than two children, thereby attracting more Child Benefit and Child Tax Credit (which amounts to £2,925 per annum per additional child or £47,000 over the first 16 years of the child’s life). Or they may be unemployed – immigrants are, on average, more likely to be economically inactive than the UK population as a whole,’ he said.

For example compared with the UK average of 22% of the working age population being economically inactive, Somali, Bangladeshi, Pakistani and Iranian immigrants are likely to be 81%, 56%, 55% and 48% economically inactive respectively.

‘It is clear that not only is rewarding illegal behaviour wrong in principle but the experience of Spain and Italy shows conclusively that it encourages even more illegal immigration in anticipation of future amnesties. This is a ridiculous proposal which is bound to increase illegal immigration rather than reduce it. It is also a shocking waste of public money at a time when we can least afford it,’ said Sir Andrew.

See Briefing Paper {154}

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