Surge in Remittances Points to Sharp Rise in Illegal Immigrants from Pakistan

July 02, 2009

The number of illegal immigrants from Pakistan in the UK could be as high as 200,000 according to a new report out today which has compared official statistics on the number of Pakistani born workers with a dramatic increase in the level of remittances being sent to that country.

An examination of workers remittances shows that they are now more than six times higher than in 2001 but, according to the Government’s Labour Force Survey, the number of Pakistani born workers in Britain has risen by only 67%, says the report (Briefing Paper {160}) from think tank Migrationwatch

To test whether Pakistan was out of line with other source countries the researchers compared remittances to the Philippines over the same period which also showed a rapid increase. They found that the number of those born in the Philippines and in employment in the UK had trebled in the same period thus explaining much of the increase. This suggested that there were a lot more Pakistanis in the UK than official figures indicate.

In 2001 about 108,000 Pakistani born workers remitted $80m, or about $750 a head. Assuming, for example, that remittances per head have doubled since then as wages have increased and workers have moved up the ladder, the current flow of $520m a year would require about 350,000 workers to send home $1500 each year.

However, only 180,000 Pakistani born workers appear in the official Labour Force Survey so the remaining 170,000 workers needed to reach this level of remittances are likely to be working illegally. But illegal workers are likely to be paid less than those here legally, so there could well be, on this very rough calculation, as many as 200,000 Pakistanis working illegally in Britain.

‘We already know from investigations by newspapers that there are significant numbers of fraudulent students from Pakistan but not all will have come via this route. As there are still no checks on departure, a proportion of those coming as visitors might well stay on after their visas expire. In the five years 2004-8 over half a million visas were issued in Pakistan, including nearly 60,000 student visas[1]. Others could have arrived on the back of a truck,’ said Sir Andrew, Chairman of Migrationwatch.

‘In our view the only plausible explanation for such a rapid increase in remittances from Pakistan is a sharp rise in the number of illegal immigrants sending money home. This paper only attempts a ball park figure but it points to a matter of considerable concern. Not only are illegal workers undercutting the wages of British workers but, in the case of Pakistan there are serious security aspects to an immigration system that has more holes than a Swiss cheese. This requires a root and branch review of the visa system for Pakistan,’ he said.

1 Hansard 29 April 2009 Col 1352W and 6 May 2009 Col 281W

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