Anthony Browne, the outgoing director of Policy Exchange, has written for today’s Independent – backing what he admits is a "politically dynamite" case for an amnesty for illegal immigrants. Mr Browne is about to join the Mayor of London’s office, as head of policy. Boris Johnson himself backed an amnesty during the mayoral race – a position that puts him at odds with David Cameron.
In his piece for The Independent Mr Browne notes estimates that there are 400,000 illegal immigrants in the UK; largely in the south east of England. There are, he writes, three options to deal with this problem:
- Mass deportation: Mr Browne dismisses this as very expensive and unrealistic; "No country that sees itself as civilised wants to send immigration officials into schools, yanking distraught children away from their distressed classmates."
- Accept the status quo: But this prevents a huge number of people from becoming fully participating members of society.
- An amnesty: Mr Browne believes that this is the best option and will benefit the long-term productivity of the UK economy. He calls for an "earned amnesty" for those who have been resident in the UK for a short number of years and haven’t been found guilty of any criminal offences.
The most common objection to an amnesty is that it will only encourage further illegal immigration. Spain, for example, has granted six amnesties. The first amnesty twenty years ago granted residency to 44,000 people. The most recent and sixth amnesty – in 2005 – involved 700,000 immigrants. Anthony Browne says this can be avoided by doing much more to protect Britain’s borders.
> There is an extended profile of Policy Exchange in The Guardian, including an interview with its new Director, Neil O’Brien.