Languishing In Limbo: Britain’s Illegal Immigrants

After November 1st  2008, doctors, nurses, school teachers and social workers from outside the EU will be officially ‘not welcome’ in the UK. Except (presumably) as tourists or (possibly) as students The door is being inexorably slammed shut for all except those on the approved list, such as ballet dancers, sheep shearers and specialist chefs. The proclaimed objective is to reduce the ‘imbalance’ between those arriving in the UK ( 600,000 pa,) and those leaving (400,000 pa).A recent report entitled ‘Balanced Migration’ by two high-profile Members of Parliament goes even further. They propose an annual limit of 20,000 migrants and a maximum four-year stay. The Institute For Public Policy Research (IPPR) promptly criticised this as ‘xenophobic’. Meanwhile, an article in the ‘left-wing ‘ Observer newspaper concluded “The time has come to say Britain is full. The roads in the south-east are permanently clogged, public transport a mess, schools & hospital overwhelmed.” By implication the migrants are to blame and the Points Based System (PBS) the solution.

One group, however, has so far been left out of the equation. ‘MigrationWatch” estimates that there are about 670,00 people living illegally in the UK, including failed asylum seekers who have not been removed. The Home Office’s  draft ‘Immigration and Citizenship ‘ Bill (July 2008)  ruled out any sort of amnesty for illegal immigrants – who should therefore (in their view) pack up and go either voluntarily or by means of enforced deportation. The Migrants Rights Network has quoted examples of  the rough physical treatment sometimes meted out to detainees ( and their families) while being put on flights out of the country. The CentreForum organisation considers that there are compelling social and economic arguments for the regularisation of undocumented migrants and that they should be allowed 5 years to demonstrate their commitment to the UK.

This is also the main theme of  the  ‘Strangers to Citizens’ campaign launched by ‘London Citizens’ in November 2006. Their rally outside Westminster Cathedral and the march to Trafalgar Square in May 2007  attracted 15,000 supporters. The next one is planned for May 2009,when they anticipate the turn-out will be at least 50,00. They have obtained the backing of over 90 MP’s – and London Mayor,Boris Johnson – but are not expecting any  progress under the present Government . They are hopeful that the Conservatives will start afresh and ‘clear up the mess’ left by Labour.

‘London Citizens’ declare themselves as ‘neutral’ in the immigration debate  but emphasize that it is unacceptable to have a permanent under-class subsisting in the UK. Much better for them to be paying taxes, bringing in revenue and able to participate openly in the community. They advocate a coherent immigration policy, but are not asking for a blanket amnesty.They know this would be politically impossible for any Government. It is for them a humanitarian issue: highlighting the plight of vunerable people who are exploited in the ‘black economy’ and are often paid (cash in hand) less than £3 per hour. They describe the official minimum wage (£5.52 ph ) as ‘poverty level’ for anyone attempting to survive in the capital and propose instead a basic £7.45 per hour. ‘London Citizens’ also wants illegal migrants to have the opportunity to move on to more rewarding jobs. At the moment, if they all had  to leave the country “who else would be prepared to get up at 2am to clean London’s offices?”

Filed under: Immigration & Visas | Posted on September 19th, 2008 by Colin D Gordon

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