Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Government ministers have dismissed calls for an amnesty for up to 500,000 illegal immigrants in Britain

John Twomey:

After politicians, church leaders and union chiefs joined a mass rally in London’s Trafalgar Square, the Government said such a move would be a disaster.

Yesterday’s demonstration was organised by the Strangers Into Citizens campaign, which is demanding that illegal immigrants are allowed to live in the UK permanently.

Campaigners say it would be cheaper to allow them to stay, find work and pay taxes, than to pursue deportations through the courts.

They want failed asylum seekers and visa overstayers who have been here for four years or more to be given a two-year work permit with no access to benefits.

Indefinite leave to remain would then only be granted to those who had no criminal record, passed an English test and produced employer and sponsor references. Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O’Connor, leader of Catholics in England and Wales, told the rally: “Our Government must treat migrant workers with justice and dignity.”

But immigration minister Liam Byrne dismissed the calls for an amnesty. He said: “This would severely damage our country.”

Damien Green, the Tory home affairs spokesman, said an amnesty would fail to solve the problems of illegal immigration.

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