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London Mayor Demand Amnesty for Illegal Migrants

Mar 27, 2009, 5:58 AM | Article By: Alhagie Mbye, The Point's UK Correspondent

Following very interesting and sometime heated debate about how to deal with the numbers of illegal migrants in the United Kingdom, the Mayor of London Boris Johnson has urged the government of Gordon Brown to grant amnesty to these categories of people taking into consideration amongst other issues the number of years they spent in the country.

 The London Mayor once again recommends to the government that it was 'sensible to grant amnesty for illegal immigrants because it would be morally right to do so'. He also maintained that it will also help boost the London economy and help 'legalised' many law abiding people in the country living in the city illegally. 

Even though such statements are contrary to the immigration policies of the Mayor's own Conservative Party, respectable political commentators and pundits said that 'Johnson is bold enough to raise such vital issue with the government'.  

After his proposals, the major media houses including the BBC broadcasted programmes including the participation of various stakeholders including those who favour and others who are totally against such ideas for their comments. Their conclusion was assorted, mature in its content and done in a fair balance and democratic manner. 

Following the announcement, this correspondent was contacted on several occasions with questions in regards to the truthfulness or otherwise of the whole issues. As a result The Point was able to obtain relevant information that the Mayors office was 'serious about the matter and had even mentioned it during the campaigning period'. An official at the Mayor's office told The Point: 'The matter is similar to a manifesto because it is what the Mayor believes in'.

 The Point also learnt that the London School of Economics, has estimated that the 'number of irregular immigrants and their dependants reached 725,000 in 2007 and that two-thirds are thought to live in the capital city of London. Therefore the debate was highly welcome in the city. 

The Mayor said that the idea of granting legal status to law abiding foreigners who have been in the UK for over five years deserve consideration as it will also be a contribution to the national treasury. He strongly emphasises that it is 'wrong for any one to stay in the country illegally' but at the same time it was 'not practicable' to just show them the exit door. 

Boris Johnson also acknowledged and admitted that the case for an amnesty can be a 'hard political argument to win', but insisted there was a need for 'practicality and realism' for the interest of the country. 

Despite the Mayor's comment that gives hope to thousands of people, the government argues that it may not be a good proposal and further asserted that despite his good intention, the Mayor is 'naïve' in his suggestion. 

Phil Woolas, the Immigration Minister said an amnesty will in fact lead to 'more people being exploited by traffickers making more money and exploiting more vulnerable individuals'. The Immigration Minister told the press that the 'UK Border Agency is committed to stopping illegal migration'.  

He said: 'We are putting in place the biggest shake-up of the immigration system for 45 years and are seeing the results. We are putting more resources into expelling foreign lawbreakers and last year we removed one person every eight minutes'. 

On his part, Shadow Home Secretary Dominic Grieve who share the same party with Johnson, warned that an amnesty would be 'massively counter-productive and unacceptable'. 

During its investigation, The Point leant that many senior government officials are 'willing to listen to such proposals and see what benefit comes along with it'. However the London Mayor acknowledges that 'illegal immigrants had broken the law and should in principle be deported' but quickly added that 'unfortunately it's just not going to happen'. 

Andrew Green, chairman of Migration-watchUK, who is always critical on immigration issues, said the amnesty proposal was 'unbelievably irresponsible' and would cost the taxpayer at least £500m a year. His allegation is denied by many opinion polls and member of the Liberal Democrat Party officials said they support the idea of amnesty due to its advantages.  

During its annual conference in Brighton covered by this correspondent, the Liberal Democrats voted in favour of a plan it called 'an earned route to citizenship for illegal migrants who had been in the UK for 10 years'. Other proposals  introduced by the Liberal Democrats Home Affairs spokesman Nick Clegg,  includes a border police force, an extension of language lessons, increased work permit fees for businesses, and the reintroduction of exit checks at all ports were also passed.  

Furthermore, Johnson's statement is welcome by liberty and human rights associations who describe it as 'brave and sensible' and thus called on the government to consider it without further delay. 

Nevertheless the debate is now overshadowed by the economic news stories and articles. But what is important to note is that such imperative proposal depend on series of implementations and most importantly, the Mayor has no powers to enforce such scheme. 

'It is now it is up to Parliament to either accept such proposal or throw it into the long grass for yet another formal exchange of opinion'- a respected political commentator in the city told The Point. 

What ever the case, thousands of those affected are keenly and patiently waiting for such a debate to be announced in Parliament sooner rather than later with the conviction it will accomplish something in their favour.