Lib Dems follow church calls for migrant amnesty

By staff writers
September 19, 2007

The Liberal Democrats yesterday responded to a call by many Christians for an amnesty for illegal immigrants.

At its party conference in Brighton it unveiled plans to give a conditional amnesty to illegal migrants who have been in the country for more than 10 years.

Home affairs spokesman Nick Clegg told the conference delegates that the party should not stay silent for fear of controversy.

"Today's motion is intended to drag the debate back where it belongs: governed by facts, not prejudice, by fairness, not vitriol," he said.

Under the proposals, citizenship would be awarded on the condition that migrants had no criminal record and could speak English.

The head of the Roman Catholic Church in England and Wales, Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O'Connor, is amongst those who have called for the government to consider an amnesty for illegal immigrants in the UK.

In May this year thousands attended a Mass and rally in London to celebrate immigration and call for an amnesty. The Strangers Into Citizens campaign was joined by faith leaders, immigrants from across the world, community activists and church groups in a gathering in Trafalgar Square.

A significant change of tack on immigration by the government has also been proposed by the UK Christian think tank Ekklesia.

But Immigration minister Liam Byrne yesterday criticised the idea, saying: "I believe those here illegally should go home - not go to the front of the queue for jobs and benefits."

The Express describes it as a "fantasy world solution", while the Mail says the Lib Dems' first "big idea" is a "foolish one".

Clegg outlines his proposals in detail in an article for the Independent today.

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