Pressure was mounting on the government earlier this month to grant an amnesty for illegal immigrants in Britain.
The term ‘illegal immigrant’ covers a huge number of people. Many have come here perfectly legally through student and tourist visas, and many are asylum seekers who are caught up in complicated legal processes and do not wish to return to unsafe countries such as Iraq. These people contribute a great deal to the economy and society. The government should have bitten the bullet a long time ago and given illegal immigrants an amnesty. The US did this and the result has been a greater contribution to tax revenues.
At the same time there have been attempts to pander to racism as the recession deepens, with calls to kick out people that have overstayed, rather than give them an amnesty.
Last year, the controversial pressure group Migrationwatch last year teamed up with Tory MP Nicholas Soames and Labour MP Frank Field to produce a pamphlet calling for a limit to be placed on the number of migrants allowed to live in Britain; this to be achieved by capping immigration at the level of emigration and throwing out of the country the majority of workers from abroad who have working here for four years. Misleadingly titled ‘Balanced Migration’, the pamphlet’s publication was welcomed across the right wing tabloids. The call for a limit in the number of resident migrants goes further than the Conservative Party’s policy of immigration quotas.
Migrationwatch was characterised by the Independent newspaper as ‘a nasty little outfit with a distinctly unpleasant agenda’ whose campaigns it likened to those ‘deployed by the far right.’ It produces propaganda that denies the benefits that migrants contribute to British society, including the billions of pounds of extra wealth added annually to the economy. Instead it portrays migrants as a ‘threat’ and a ‘cost’.
The government has rejected the Migrationwatch–Soames–Field proposals and the Conservative party proposed quotas. With a deep recession currently unfolding it is important to ensure that the deteriorating economic situation is not wrongly blamed on migrants and that the racial intolerance promoted by the anti-migrant right is firmly rebutted.