General Election 2010: Lib Dem amnesty signals British passports for 1m illegal migrants
More than a million foreigners could be given British citizenship under Liberal Democrat plans to offer an amnesty to illegal immigrants, it emerged on Sunday.
By Robert Winnett Deputy Political Editor
Published: 7:00AM BST 26 Apr 2010
Lib Dem immigration police would open the doors for families
Lib Dem immigration police would open the doors for families Photo: AFP
Nick Clegg, the Liberal Democrat leader, was forced to concede in a BBC interview that he was unable to estimate how many illegal immigrants would settle under his amnesty plans. He also suggested that the spouses and children of those allowed to remain in Britain could be granted citizenship.
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The Conservatives and Labour rounded on the plans, describing the scheme as a “disaster”. Similar amnesties in other countries led to a surge in illegal immigration.
A study released yesterday suggested that Britain was home to more than one million illegal immigrants who could take advantage of an amnesty. The research from MigrationWatch UK, a think tank lobbying for stricter immigration rules, predicted that the number of illegal immigrants was almost twice the Government estimate. A separate study conducted last year by the London School of Economics for Boris Johnson, the London mayor, concluded that there could be up to 863,000 illegal immigrants.
Yesterday, when asked how many illegal immigrants would benefit from his proposed amnesty, Mr Clegg said: “Well we can’t tell, bluntly, because this is all about a problem which has been caused by a succession of Labour and Conservative governments presiding over chaos in the immigration system and allowing a large number of people to come here illegally.”
The Lib Dem policy could have a serious impact on the public finances as newly accepted immigrants gain the right to use public services and claim benefits.
The Tories have pledged to introduce an annual cap – in the “tens of thousands” – for the number of immigrants allowed to settle in Britain. They would also increase border patrols. Chris Grayling, the shadow home secretary, said: “The Lib Dems’ proposed amnesty for illegal immigrants would be a disaster for Britain.
“All the evidence from other countries is that amnesties don’t work. The Lib Dem approach would send a message to the world that you can come to Britain illegally and get away with it.” Alan Johnson, the Home Secretary, added: “Even Nick Clegg is beginning to admit that his party’s immigration plans are flaky and unworkable. In a dangerous signal to those thinking of coming to Britain illegally, Nick Clegg has refused to rule out granting an amnesty not just for illegal migrants but for their partners and families too.”
Refugee Action, a charity that assists more than 10,000 asylum seekers a year, said the Lib Dem plan may “undermine” public trust in immigration policies.