“strangers Into Citizens”?


Amnesty, Economics, Housing

Introduction
The Roman Catholic Church and others are supporting a "strangers into citizens" campaign. This note summarises the case against it.

The Proposal
The proposal is that "undocumented
migrants" who have been living (illegally) in Britain for four years
should be allowed to earn citizenship over a further two year period
during which they would be allowed to work, provided that they paid
taxes and had no criminal convictions.The intention is to achieve a
balance between a humane approach and "an element of deterrence" to
illegal migration.

The Numbers
A Home Office commissioned study, published in June 2005, gave a
central estimate of 430,000. However, it was based on the 2001 census.
A more up-to-date figure would be between ½ million and ¾ million.

The Financial Cost
The benefit to the Exchequer of collecting tax from ½ million low-paid
workers would be about £1 billion per year. However, the cost of thus
extending access to the welfare state would be at least £1.5 billion
per year.

Other Implications
Once legal, migrants would have
the right to bring over their families. They would also be entitled to
social housing. This could add ½ million to the housing lists.

Migrants Contribution
Not all illegal migrants pay direct taxes but they tend to do unpopular
work for low wages and thus contribute to the general well-being of the
rest of society. However, they also undercut the wages of British
workers and help unscrupulous employers to compete unfairly against
honest ones.

Would "regularisation" solve the problem?
Almost
certainly not. It has been extensively tried in Italy and Spain where
it has simply made the position worse. Over the past twenty years,
Italy has granted five amnesties and Spain six. On almost every
occasion the number of applications was greater than for the previous
amnesty. In the case of Italy the numbers rose from 119,000 in a 1988
amnesty to 700,000 in 2002 while in Spain 44,000 were granted an
amnesty in 1985 but in 2005 this had also risen to 700,000.

In Britain, there will always be people from the third world who
overstay their visas or arrive clandestinely and who would be willing
to work for what is considered here to be a low wage but which would
still allow them to send money home. The prospect of what amounts to an
amnesty, followed by full access to the welfare state by themselves and
their families could only encourage the growth of illegal immigration.

What can be done?
It has been suggested that an
amnesty would "save" £4.7 billion. However, this sum is obtained by
multiplying an estimate of the number of illegals by the cost of each
forced removal (£11,000). Mass removal is, however, neither feasible or
proposed.

The government’s policy, announced on 6 March 2007, is to
strengthen measures against employers of illegal workers and to tighten
access to health and education services. The expectation is that
illegal workers will drift home. This could be assisted by a "free exit
period" during which illegals returning home would not be prosecuted on
departure.

Conclusion
Illegal working will never be completely
eliminated while huge wage differentials with the third world persist.
However, the proposals of "strangers into citizens" would make matters
considerably worse and might well incur the deep resentment of low paid
British workers, particularly over housing.

4th May 2007

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