An amnesty allowing illegal immigrants to stay in Britain would cost taxpayers £1million for each newcomer, a shocking new report revealed today.
The massive sum reflects the costs of handouts and other state services provided over the lifetime of the average immigrant.
The figure would also apply to many of those who have already been granted asylum in Britain, according to campaign group Migrationwatch which commissioned the study.
Asylum seekers in Calais, France, queue for food handouts distributed by local charity workers.
Queue: Would-be illegal immigrants in Calais wait for their chance to enter Britain. More could follow if ministers buckle to demands to grant asylum to those here
Their revelation came as thousands of churchgoers, trade unionists and charity workers today prepared to rally in London in support of an ‘earned amnesty’ for 450,000 foreigners.
The coalition argues that providing permanent residency for those long-term illegal immigrants who meet certain conditions–roughly half the total–would bring in more than £1billion of tax a year.
But Migrationwatch warned that such an amnesty would overburden the public purse during a recession and only tempt more migrants into the country.
‘Our calculations show the numbers are truly enormous, adding an unacceptable–and entirely unnecessary–burden to the nation’s balance sheet,’ said the group’s chairman Sir Andrew Green.
‘Shocking waste of public money’: How Migrationwatch chief Sir Andrew Green (above) described amnesty calls after reporting on how much it would cost
‘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.’
To calculate the individual cost of each granting asylum, Migrationwatch researchers set the tax and National Insurance paid by immigrants against their demands on state funds.
The research is based on a married 25-year-old, married with two children, who earned the minimum wage and lived in private rented housing, retired at 65 and lived until 80.
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 per cent 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, a former British ambassador to Saudi Arabia.
‘On the other hand some may have families of more than two children, thereby attracting more Child Benefit and Child Tax Credits.
‘Also they may be unemployed–immigrants are, on average, more likely to be economically inactive than the UK population as a whole.’
Compared with the UK average of 22 per cent of the working age population being economically inactive, the rate among Somali, Bangladeshi, Pakistani and Iranian immigrants respectively is 81 per cent, 56 per cent, 55 per cent and 48 per cent.
Campaigners gathering in support of granting asylum to illegal immigrants will be heartened by London Mayor Boris Johnson’s comments that providing amnesty would be ‘morally right’.
Roman Catholics, Anglicans and Christians from other denominations will attend services in the capital–where two thirds of immigrants live–before taking part in a rally in Trafalgar Square as part of the Strangers into Citizens day of action.
High-profile church supporters include Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O’Connor, who steps down later this month as leader of Catholics in England and Wales and his successor as Archbishop of Westminster, the Most Rev Vincent Nichols.
Neil Jameson, co-ordinator of the campaign, said: ‘The current government strategy of imposing heavy fines and document checks on employers as well as deporting families is an inhumane, costly, and complicated way to tackle irregular migration.
‘We propose that those who have been here for four or more years should be admitted to a two-year pathway to full legal rights during which they work legally and demonstrate their contribution to UK economy and society.
‘Combined with the current border-tightening measures, our policy will reduce illegal immigration, and British society will be the winner.’
Migrationwatch’s claims were also dismissed by the organisers of the rally.
‘Neither Sir Andrew Green nor I are economists,’ said Dr Austen Ivereigh, Strangers into Citizens’ director of policy.
‘So we should defer to those who are. And they are agreed that a Spanish-style regularisation, as advocated by President Obama, has great economic benefits.
‘In the case of Spain in 2005, the measure paid for itself many times over in new social security and tax revenues.’
Spanish authorities let 44,000 settle under an amnesty in 1985, but when the exercise was repeated in 2005 the figure soared to 700,000.
A UK Border Agency spokesman said: ‘Our policy on an amnesty for illegal immigrants remains unchanged and is very clear.
‘Those here illegally should go home, not go to the front of the queue for jobs and benefits.
‘We have a proud tradition of offering sanctuary to those who truly need our help, but to grant an amnesty would be likely to create a significant pull factor to the UK and would undermine the asylum system as a whole.’
The Strangers into Citizenship campaign is calling for regularisation of some of the UK’s illegal immigrants–a humane and practical move
On Monday, as London lies empty in the bank holiday sun, a hidden world will erupt. The capital’s immigrant communities, together with members of parishes, schools and charities, MPs and trade unionists, will converge on Parliament Square. About 20,000 people will walk together to Trafalgar Square, holding up a bright orange banner that simply reads: “Strangers into Citizens”.
In the square, those gathered will hear a call for a measure that is practical, humane and of obvious benefit: a Spanish-style regularisation of a portion of the UK’s irregular migrants, also known as “a pathway into citizenship” of the sort advocated by Barack Obama.
The idea is supported by people of all political colours: the Conservative mayor of London, the Liberal Democrats, a number of members of cabinet as well as policy institutes of the left, liberals and Conservatives. A one-off, selective regularisation would be simple to do, would pay for itself and the dividends would be great. Yet the very mention of it scares the government, who are anxious for you to know that they are tough on “illegal immigration” and worry that an “amnesty” would send the wrong message.
But let’s be clear whom the Strangers into Citizens campaign–backed by Boris Johnson–believes should be regularised. A report out later this month commissioned from the London School of Economics by Johnson estimates there to be 750,000 “irregular migrants” in the UK. Most of these people entered legally, either through the asylum system or on some kind of visa; they would have then fallen into illegality when the immigration rules changed or when, after many years in limbo, their asylum claim failed. The Strangers into Citizens proposal is for a pathway into citizenship for those who have been in the UK for at least six years and who present employer and character references, a clean criminal record and proficiency in English, or have a strong humanitarian case. That would total, says the LSE, about 450,000 people.
All regularisations start from an admission that there is a mismatch between law and reality. According to the law, people who have no right to be here should go home. But people aren’t like that. They make new lives, become part of families and communities. Most of those 450,000 are not going home, because their home has moved. The truth that all (including the Home Office) admit yet few are willing to face is this: a mass deportation is both impossible and morally unacceptable. That is why the government’s is a bogus policy. The UK Border Agency has increased its forced removal rate to 60,000 per year, at a cost of £11,000 per removal. But it’s a drop in the ocean. At this rate it will take 34 years and cost £9bn to remove everybody.
So the real alternative is some form of regularisation–or the status quo, in which a large part of the population lives in a shadow world, as sub-citizens, prone to exploitation, fearful of reporting crimes, undermining the minimum wage, unable to access rights and less likely to fulfil their obligations of paying taxes. A large population outside the law benefits no one.
Regularisation is the humane and practical solution. Combined with border-enforcement measures, such as those the government is bringing in at the moment, and measures to shrink the shadow economy, it helps to deter further illegal immigration. Such is the experience of Spain, which regularised 600,000 people in 2005 as part of a package of reforms which included tighter borders. Numbers entering Spain between 2001 and 2004 were considerably higher than those that have entered since. That’s why, in the United States, regularisation is backed by those who favour more restrictive immigration measures. It enables immigration authorities to concentrate on those who intend to break the law rather than those whom the law is breaking.
Spain’s regularisation–the fruit of consent between employers, unions and civil society in general–took three months and cost little. Immigrants are generally young, fit, and educated at another country’s expense: they are not a burden on the benefits system.
What’s left is politics, the nervousness of admitting that immigration policies have not succeeded, and the perception that regularisation in some way undermines legal immigration. But if the government really believed that, they wouldn’t have granted leave to remain to thousands of asylum “legacy cases” this past year. The letters these people received informed them they could stay on the grounds of their “long association with the UK”–precisely the Strangers into Citizens argument.
That is why the organisations of civil society are gathering on Monday: not to oppose more restrictive immigration policies or border-tightening measures, but to point to those already here, residents among us, strangers who are not yet citizens. Their liberation is also ours.