Friday, November 21, 2008

Boris Calls for "Earned Amnesty" for Illegal Migrants

Those who thought Boris Johnson would be a Cameron Cypher, strictly controlled by CCHQ must be shaking their heads in bewilderment tonight. London's Mayor has just appeared on Channel 4 News calling for an "earned amnesty" for the 400,000 illegal immigrants living in London and the estimated 300,000 in the rest of the country. As mayor, he cannot, of course, bring in such a policy, which will come as a relief to those who believe that all illegal immigrants should be deported.

In the Channel 4 News interview Boris says that deporting the estimated 700,000 illegal immigrants currently living in the UK is "just not going to happen", adding that an amnesty would lead to "hugely increased revenues" from taxes. I'm going to quote his words at length, because it's important to understand the logic of his argument...

What I want is to lead a debate about how sensibly to deal with the 400, 000 people who are living here and working here illegally.What I want to do is to commission a study by my own economics team here at the Greater London Authority into the possibility. We want to look in detail at what the economic impact of such an earned amnesty system would be. There are about 400,000 in In principle these people have done the wrong thing: they’ve broken the law. In principle they should all be taken and sent back to their place of origin, that's the right thing to do...

Asking the question: “How do you cope with people who have been here a long time, the huge numbers of people living here below the line, below the radar, not entering the economy, not able to play a full part in society?”

“Should we have a mass programme of expulsions, because that hasn’t worked: it's legally incredibly difficult, (and) it's expensive for the state, or should we see if we can develop a sensible system of earned amnesty, so after a substantial period of time - and I would say more than five years - you can, in principle demonstrate your commitment to this society and to this economy. And you can earn your right to stay here.”

“What I emphatically don’t want to do is to set up incentives for illegal immigration. You don't want to create moral hazard, but I think you should have a system whereby people who have been here for a long time can earn a way out of the mess they're in.

“And the advantage of that is not just that you regularise them - and you bring them into society and you decriminalise them - but also of course you increase your tax base. In Spain when they did this they hugely increased the revenues available to the Spanish exchequer from people who were suddenly entering the economy legally and could be taxed.” But: “There’s got to be a very substantial period in which they have been in this country. I think that we could have other hoops that they might have to go through in order to be able to quality for an earned amnesty scheme. For instance, it might be necessary to have a clean criminal record. It might be important that they should go through various citizenship tests, the kind we already have. And there might be some sort of financial obligations that they have to meet as well.

So what do you make of that, then? The knee jerk reaction is to dismiss it out of hand and question Boris's Conservative credentials. The Party's official response has been to say: "We will have to agree to differ with the Mayor on this one".

My problem with immigration amnesties is that I would imagine they would encourage a further flow of illegal immigration in the future. But I am quite happy to admit that I know very little about it and I may be completely wrong. I can see that from an economically liberal perspective it is something worth looking into. I can also see that unless the government has a determination to root out illegal immigrants and send them back from whence they came, then we might as well look at other options.

So I am trying to give Boris the benefit of the doubt, despite my inner reactionary voice telling me it's a barking mad idea. If Boris wants to start a proper debate on it, that may be no bad things, but it would be nice if it could be conducted without the traditional inflammatory language which normally accompanies discussions on this subject.

I need a lie down.

42 comments:

Anonymous said...

I wonder if you'd have given Ken Livingstone the benefit of the doubt, if he'd suggested an amnesty?

captain skint said...

I think it's incredibly pragmatic and certainly worth a proper analysis. They must be some of most victimized people around. Go Bojo!

Iain Dale said...

Fair point.

Newmania said...

Spain has had a series of amnesties (did Boris forget ?) with precisely the result you predict Iain
I would,not say this was a bad idea, clearly it has some advantages such as being able to draw on more money in those Boroughs where the mass of illegals live . That may be the Johnson slant on it.
Sadly with a border out of control immigration now quintupled from 97 and no sign of any will to get to grips with it the negatives enormously outweigh the positives.

In the context of a Conservartive administration genuinely commited to an honest and tough policy I think this sort of an idea might be workable .Under Labour, its just putting out a fire with gasoline

Ann said...

Listen to your inner voice Iain,

Tom FD said...

We know that border controls have been pretty lax over the past decade. So beef them up, then hold a one-off amnesty. When someone's settled here for a long period of time, legally or not, it becomes more difficult and more morally questionable to turf them out - it's time the immigration authorities could be spending doing other things, surely. Anyway, once they've realised how much tax they'll be charged, they'll be on the first flight out of the country I'm sure...

Incidentally does anyone else have a problem with the hypocrisy of those who complain about Boris having used the word "piccaninnies" in an article, when they're using the word themselves in the exact same context?

Anonymous said...

I think it's a very sensible idea, and it wont increase illegal immigration. The criteria would have to be stringent but think instead of the current situation - not only do we have hundreds of thousands of immigrants, we have no means of identifying the number (this would), we can't return half of them even if we identify them (their countries of origin might refuse to take them, they may claim asylum), it would boost revenue and help inflation push back up again by increasing wages for the cash in hand illegals, and it would impart a sense of british liberal value amongst those who were made legal. Perhaps a 5 year probation could follow - one offence and you're deported etc.

It's the most sensible thing he's ever said. Apart from bring back the routemaster.

Bojo's bonkers said...

An amnesty for illegal immigrants would be mad. It would just encourage yet further illegal immigration. We need to get control of our borders to stem the tide of illegal immigration before we could even consider what to do with the huge number of illegal immigrants who are already here.

strapworld said...

Of course it worth a serious analysis. This is yet another indication of a LEADER! a man thinking outside the box.

Of course it will infuriate many people. But think of the thousands of illegals who are paying someone for keeping their secret. How many are being treated as slaves?

This would be a brave step. But in so doing it must be backed up with a Borders Police that can actually have the powers to stop any future 'illegal'

Boris has shown great leadership,statesmanship and caring for his fellow man.

This is an issue that must be tackled properly and not, as in the past ten years, swept under the carpet!

Bravo Boris.

IanVisits said...

A permanent unearnt amnesty would indeed be a problem.

However, what he called an amnesty actually sounds more like a slow path to a legal citizenship - and would only be open to people who have been here for a long time etc.

Ideally, we would lower the barriers to working here as most studies suggest that if people can get into the UK easily - then they are actually happier to go back home again, knowing that the risk of being blocked from re-entry is lower.

By putting up barriers, we end up encouraging migrants who do manage to get here to then settle permanently - which is probably not what some people would want to encourage.

If a migrant can pay $10,000 to a trafficker, why not let them enter legally, work and pay taxes - and put the $10k into a monitored bank account as insurance against needing benefits payments?

Better quality migration, and the illegal traffickers are put out of business.

Sounds neat to me.

Anonymous said...

Boris Johnson used to like Tory MPs but now, he has modelled himself, all independent like, on Arnie in California.

"I am Boris the Verminhator!!!"

trevorsden said...

"Why not let them enter legally"

The problem with this immigration is that despite what labour say it is not needed. We have millions who could work but are on benefits. Millions cast on to the slag heap by the socialists.

Illegal migrants should be deported. The only concession to them to help them come forward is they should be given a bounty and given some priority to any future immigration.

We need to face up to the terrible problems we face in our own sub-class and solve them, cure them instead of putting a sticking plaster over them.

But Boris' proposal is indicative of what happens when people get in power the urge to trim is inevitable - not least because honest debate merely opens you up to misrepresentation form the unholy alliance of everyone else.

Wallenstein said...

I know from working in local govt. in Fenland that there are a lot of people - farmers, agricultural processors, food packing plants - who are heavily reliant on the illegals. A couple of farmers told me bluntly that without them the crops would rot in the fields, as no-one else would do the work (try getting yer average 18 y/old Wisbech lad to spend 6 days a week picking leeks in the Fenland rain).

Much better from an economic point-of-view to tax these workers properly: as long as we enjoy cheap fruit 'n' veg in Tesco it's rather hypocritical to also complain that the people who picked it are here illegally.

DiscoveredJoys said...

Many of our recent laws generate unintended consequences. The anti hunting with dogs law has apparently increased the number of (legal) fox hunters, for instance.

Stopping illegal immigration (within the costs budgetd) has not worked, and repatriating 700,000 people would neither be cheap nor easy. So perhaps Boris is onto something?

Mind you we would probably have to regulate entry in a more effective way at the same time.

Alex said...

"The problem with this immigration is that despite what labour say it is not needed. We have millions who could work but are on benefits."

Very true. I would add that these immigrants have come to the UK because there is a market for no-questions-asked below minimum wage labour. Making them legit and making them pay tax pushes up the cost of employing them, so they will be made redundant and another wave of £2.50 an hour immigrants will take their places.

Anonymous said...

I think Boris is closer to Dave on this they people want to admit.

Anonymous said...

I don't have a telly, but wasn't there a programme where this was going to be proposed - not sure if it was American [say, the West Wing] or one set in Britain [might have been a one off ITV Drama ?]

Can anyone help - or did I dream it?

gordon-bennett said...

First problem. If they entered the country illegally and unseen, how do they prove they have been here for the required number of years?

Second problem. Amnesties encourage further immigration since they offer a way to citizenship.

How do you get 700,000 illegal immigrants to leave the country? Simple. You get them to deport themselves voluntarily. You do this by ensuring that they cannot get employment or benefits.

If you simplify the ID card so that it only identifies and does not include personal data (which is the expensive and difficult part of the scheme) then you can check all companies for illegal immigrants and, if the fines are pitched steeply enough, none will be employed.

No job, no benefits: they will soon go elsewhere.

Stop Common Purpose said...

The man's mad.

Jabba the Cat said...

Jabba hopes that the knee jerk posturing by Boris Johnson, as typified by this rant on immigration or the stupid display at the Beijing Olympics, is not a sign of things to come with the next Tory administration in Westminster.

It is the job of the Tory party in Westminster to deal with matters of immigration and not that of the mayor of London. The legality of immigration in the metropolis has no bearing on the mayor's duty or ability to carry out his job.

Jabba is disappointed to have no real communication of progress at city hall. Where are the investigative reports, promised during the mayoral election campaign, into the profligate spending of ratepayers money by Leninspart and his politically correct cronies and fellow traveller shills? Where are the reports of savings and redundancies at city hall? Where are the savings long overdue with the financial farce that is passing as the London Olympics?

If Londoners do not see substantive progress in matters concerning the metropolis that were in Boris Johnson's electoral manifesto, the electorate will be planting their boot firmly in his arse at the next mayoral election.

Adrian said...

"send them back from whence they came"? Just _whence they came_, Iain (or possibly _to whence they came_, if you must) - you can't send someone back _from_ the place they came from!

And whether or not his (Boris's) idea is workable, it's nice to hear a politican being pragmatic. When I hear politicians talking about e.g. banning prostitution or making abortion illegal I can only shake my head and wish they'd wake up and smell the coffee.

JT said...

Pragmatic is accepting that an amnesty will not reduce illegal immigration but even talk of one will give the BNP a free boost in the run-up to a General Election.

It is precisely this sort of policy that has broken down the trust between the political and white working classes.

The political classs nees to make up its mind - which does it value more? Immigration or the indigenous working class.

Or maybe Boris is just stirring the shit to ensure more people vote BNP?

John Pickworth said...

Good man Boris....

Not sure if he's right or wrong but at least he's proposing one way of dealing with the problem.

And it is a problem. The world has changed, we're seeing huge numbers of people move around planet. We either open the doors (globally) or we find some way to manage these movements. Either way, we cannot allow huge numbers of people to remain effectively stateless within our borders.

Adrian said...

Look, the situation is this: either we have an amnesty or we control migration effectively. It's an absolute disgrace that there are three-quarters of a million people living here illegally, but whose fault is that? It's ours for letting them in and then being unwilling to police them properly. If the BNP gains some political capital out of all this, GOOD. Perhaps that's one of the few ways that'll make the government start doing its job.

John Moss said...

The problem with immigration is not immigration, it is healthcare, housing, education, - basically, we have a welfare state which encourages illegal migration because once you are here, legally or otherwise, you are very difficult to remove.

Boris makes a fair point, but Spain and the US have had several amnesties, each one larger than the last.

We need better rules on education, healthcare and housing so qualification is based on valid citizenship or, working here and paying your taxes here.

ALL immigrants - even EU immigrants - should pay a bond of £2,000, which they can have back when they have paid that much in tax/NI and you do not get unemployment, housing or any other benefit rights unless you have done so.

I'm a Tory. I believe in free trade and that means people as much as goods and services. But we have to have fair rules, applied equally to everybody. We don't now, that's why we have a problem.

dehautenbas said...

An amnesty will just encourage more people to head here, waiting for the next one. I believe Spain is already on its FOURTH amnesty. What we need is strong borders and work visas only for highly skilled workers in short supply. Every other job vacancy can be paid by training or the market reacting to shortages. Currently the low status jobs are filled on minimum wage (or below) by overseas workers. If that supply dried up some of our own workers may find that the wages for those jobs rises to a liveable level. Continued mass immigration hurts those at the bottom of the pile most. It is also likely to continue to erode the benefits, education and health systems.

Ron Todd said...

If the illegals were made legal they would not vote for Boris or the Tories they would vote Labour.
Especially the Muslims who know Brown is scared of them and increasing their numbers will only put more pressure on Brown to continue his surrender to Sharia.

simon said...

Boris is only facing reality in the UK today. The 'powers that be' have had no real will to deport illegals, just a farce of expelling 'some' whilst millions remain- probably with NI numbers, children born in this country( what a can of worms that would open when expelling illegals), etc. The only real solution to 'get rid' of illegals is immidiate forced expulsion, the enforcement of border controls, and threats of trade sanctions against countries that allow direct illegal immigration here. I can see no main political party agreeing to that so Boris is 'right' in the respect that any 'amnesty' must be 'earned'- which, in itself ,is a complete cop-out and instead should have said 'we can't get rid of illegals so we will just have to put up with 'em.' Whilst this happens the country becomes more 'diverse', 'segregated' and a bigger bastardised pc state heading for the sh****r.

Lola said...

ID wrote - "My problem with immigration amnesties is that I would imagine they would encourage a further flow of illegal immigration in the future." - Boris policy must be combined with proper border controls, but that brings in the spectre of the EU....

Unsworth said...

Boris is quite right to tackle this head on. He says 400,000, but I'm not too sure about that figure. Even so, if there's no resolution to this ongoing problem it will simply become a political liability. Whether that encourages others to try to come here illegally is another matter. Quite obviously an amnesty without a major (and effective) effort to protect our borders is a waste of time and a political betrayal.

norman said...

Boris whom I voted is barking mad lapsing into his frequent silly demeanour.

Spain tried Amnesty and USA did it many times and the result is more and more come hoping that in the future they will too get amnesty. If people are illegally arrive to work, like Latinos do in USA it is different. Illegal immigrants are herein Britain because of our benefit system including almost free housing and health service once they are 'accepted' somehow. A good proportion of them come as 'university students', stop attending lectures within a few weeks, first working legally as they can work upto 20 hours per week during their visa period, overstay their visa and become illegals. The rest of the illegals come through the civilised counties in Europe like France, for benefits. It is well known in the third world, that British lawyers legal aid and courts to prevent their deportation etc.. and that judges often rule in their favour using EU human rights law.

The solution:

1. Recruit as small a number of foreign students, putting stringent entry conditions through law and not let universities to use their judgement.

2. Amend law if necessary to remove the 20hour work per week permission for foriegn students.

3. Starve benefits for these illegals which will make them go.The problem is the EU human rights laws which the stupid Blair govt adopted.

4. There is aleady hidden amnesty operated by the Home Office. Stop it and do not vote for any party member who talks about generous immigration.

If we cannot handle this immigration problem, we will be in deep deep trouble as we become a nation of 100 million in a small patch of land.

Where is the Shadow Home Secretary?
Tories can make this an issue and they are in a win-win situation on this. Labour is shown to be lax on immigration and their arguments do not wash, ID cards included.
He is a mere shadow of David Davis.
Give the portfolio back to David Davis.

Cameron team is already failing and I cannot see him winning if he does not hammer home the failed policies of Labour of which immigration is a very good case in point.

canvas said...

I think it's refreshing to see a politician like Boris coming up with some forward thinking and progressive ideas.

He's clever to use his platform as Mayor in such a positive way. Social justice, fairness and equality are important subjects that have long been neglected by Conservative politicians. In many ways Boris is rising above party politics to do the right thing.

More power to him.

Dave H. said...

Did you notice the news item next to the leaked BNP list was about record immigration?

Did you notice the same day Boris was elected so was Richard Barnbrook?

Can't you put all this together and realise just how many people are fed up with legal mass immigration but have been bullied into silence for fear of being branded a racist? And here you are discussing rewarding the illegal ones, who more than likely will be taking jobs just to pay off the criminal networks that smuggled them here in the first place.

Sure, reward people who broke the law to come here, and while you're at it, pay the pirates the ransome. That'll learn 'em both.

Dave H. said...

Quick note: t'other lot have rather a good graphic regarding the geographical distribution of BNP members. (Shame about the stupid arrows, p'raps they indicate wind direction). It shows BNP support is mainly in the Labour areas. Quelle surprise.

http://www.labourhome.org/story/2008/11/20/74819/701

Anonymous said...

As has been said this would be disastrous for the country. It will encourage the BNP and depress the Tory vote.

A point that has not been made is how unfair this is to legal immigrants. It may be hard to believe but it is quite difficult (and becoming more difficult) to gain legal residence in this country. Why bother jumping through all the hoops if you can just waltz in under an amnesty programme?

Wrinkled Weasel said...

The problem is not illegal immigrants, it is how they are dealt with.

They should be sent back. Straight away, no questions, no appeals. Instead they are pandered to big time and they get all the benefits that I have paid for for the last 35 years, except that I have earned them and they have not (and probably never will) For feck's sake, it's my money!

If it carries on, I shall vote BNP, horrible as the option is, I have no option. The Tories won't bite the bullet on this and yes, you are right, Boris is trying this out for Dave.

It's madness. We are reaping the benefits of unfettered immigration; high levels of crime in ethnic groups, terrorism and the failure of ghastly liberal ideology.

There is nothing fluffy or nice about gun crime, drug smuggling or ritual child abuse or people trafficking or terrorism. These are all products to some extent of the shite immigration policies of the last 30 years.

IanVisits said...

Several comments about "only letting in skilled workers we need", and also some comments pointing out that most migrants tend to do low paid, low skilled work that the Brits wont touch.

Doesn't that sound a bit contrary to anyone?

Anonymous said...

Perhaps it would work - but with one essential condition.
Watertight border controls must be up and running to provide real confidence that our borders are secure BEFORE agreeing to an amnesty.
A one-off amnesty, without a secure border is a contradiction in terms.

Wrinkled Weasel said...

I suppose I had better add a couple of things.

First, when I get to voting, I am not sure I could actually put a tick against "BNP". It goes against everything I really (not WW) believe.

Secondly, I remember the Green party of 25 years ago. They looked like loonies. Of course, most of them still are, but their policies are now mainstream.

Because nobody in British politics has any cojones, no radical solution will be mooted. What has to happen is that the fringe has to gain some momentum and then, and only then, will the main parties dare to take up the cause.

I am sick of the main parties. They are cowardly and morally bankrupt. They are not fit for government. They all want power but they don't want responsibility. It's shite. We are all fecked. We are totally fecked.

Anonymous said...

Give them a hand and they take an arm.

The liblabcons chose to let immigrants into this country despite the opposition of the vast majority of the population. Now the descendants of those foreigners do everything possible to get more in.

norman said...

Secuing borders will not do. More and more illegal immigrants are from the crowd of students who have overstayed their student visa as well a percentage of visitors have done so. These students are recruited by so called new univesities through 'clearing'. Thousands come as 'students'and hundreds of thousands come as visitors, all from outside EU every year. I would close 75% of the new universities.

The problem can be solved by asking oveseas students and visitors from outside the EU to deposit say £20,000 in an account controlled by the Home Office and return it after the studies are completed and return of students and to the visitor sponsors after
their relatives are left the country.

I also heard that every day there are hundreds in each county who are granted citizenships some after living in this county just 6 years.

Dominic Grieve as the shadow home secretary is pathetically quiet.

Pat said...

Firstly, it is clearly a serious subject and its well past time it was discussed, its been pushed under the carpet far too long. Instituting a study would seem a sensible step in starting the discussion.
Of course there's a danger that one amnesty will lead to another- though I think a scheme to overcome that problem could be devised. Similarly a scheme to deport illegals could be made feasible with some revisions to the law. Either course will require determination and courage- which is of course why the issue has been fudged.
As long as a legal resident can get more for doing nothing than an unskilled foreigner can earn in his own country there will be a ready supply of potential illegals- and I note that there are less illegals than there are economically inactive. If the unemployed had sufficient incentive to take on the low grade work currently done by illegals then the latter would be unable to find work and the problem of further immigration would be solved. Perhaps a national wage set at subsistance level and only payable after five years or so proven residence would help in this. It would also render the minimum wage unnecessary.