An amnesty for the UK’s illegal immigrants

Should we give illegal immigrants the right to stay in this country?

LAST UPDATED AT 01:00 ON Wed 15 Apr 2009

THE ARGUMENTS FOR

There are an estimated 700,000 illegal immigrants in the UK   Deporting them is very expensive. It can cost the British government as much as £11,000 to send one illegal immigrant back to their native country. The cost of deporting all the illegals could be as much as £5 billion.

The logistical realities of deportation are very difficult. Even Home Office officials have admitted that they simply wouldn't be able to find all the illegal immigrants –or so in the UK. Now, the best immigration policy would be to allow them to stay and increase border security, so that others can't join them.

Our country needs illegal immigrants to work unpopular menial jobs, such as cleaning offices in the middle of the night, or farming. Deporting them would severely damage important parts of the economy.

Illegal immigrants live outside society and its regulations. This makes them vulnerable to people-smugglers, exploitation and disgraceful working conditions. For example, the Morecambe Bay tragedy, in which 21 Chinese cockle-pickers drowned, would not have happened if the workers had had the adequate safeguards of formal employment.

An amnesty for undocumented workers would allow the government to claim taxes on their earnings, which are estimated at £1 billion.

There are precedents. Mediterranean countries such as Spain and Italy have organized effective amnesties over the past 20 years.

THE ARGUMENTS AGAINST
 
An amnesty would take jobs away from domestic workers at a time when unemployment is increasing.

Offering an amnesty to illegal immigrants will work as an incentive for other foreigners thinking of trying to come to Britain for work. It will encourage people-traffickers.

Foreigners who enter Britain without the correct paperwork are breaking the law. People who do not have the right to live here should be forced to leave.

The UK is becoming more and more crowded. We should not be taking measures to increase the population when there is not enough housing and services to cope.

In Spain, where various schemes of this sort have taken place over the last 20 years, each has ended up being bigger than the last one. So an amnesty in the UK would not necessarily be a one-off, definitive solution.

The easiest option is simply to maintain the status quo, and allow illegal immigrants to stay unaccounted for. Several economists have pointed out that simply ignoring illegal immigrants helps industrialized economies by keeping deflationary pressure on wages and prices. · 

For further concise, balanced comment and analysis on the week's news, try The Week magazine. Subscribe today and get 6 issues completely free.