Campaigners, including many church groups, have been encouraged by a study showing that an amnesty for many of the 600,000 unregistered and therefore illegal migrants in Britain could provide a £3 million boost to the economy.
The London School of Economics work, commissioned by the London Mayor Boris Johnson, also dismisses fears that an amnesty would cause further large-scale illegal migration.
Most of the people who are in the UK illegally are a combination of refused refugees and visa overstayers. Many are afraid to go back, or do not want to go back because they have jobs and livelihoods in the UK. Many currently use false documents but pay taxes and contribute to economic growth. Some are refugees prevented from working who are asking for the dignity of being allowed to do so.
"Far from a financial burden, as some suggest, this new research has found an amnesty could be worth up to £3 billion a year to the country's economy," the study says.
The London Mayor welcomed the report and its findings, saying that the debate had been dominated for too long by false information and lack of hard evidence.
Churches have been campaigning for a number of years for a migrant amnesty. Last month, thousands attended simultaneous services in London celebrating the place of migrants.
The Strangers into Citizens ‘Day of Action and Celebration’ on Bank Holiday Monday (4th May) included a series of simultaneous religious services at Westminster Cathedral, Westminster Abbey and Methodist Central Hall as well as a rally in Trafalgar Square.
Strangers Into Citizens, which began in 2006 following a call by Cardinal Murphy-O’Connor at the first Mass for Migrant Workers, has been calling for the Government to implement a one-off regularisation measure which would allow refused asylum seekers and visa overstayers who have put down roots in Britain to become legal.
The latest research from the LSE puts the number of illegal migrants in Britain at 618,000, with more than two-thirds in London. Previous estimates had put the figure at 750,000.
The study suggests that £846 million a year would be raised in taxes if their position was regularised.
However, not all illegal migrants would be eligible. The study suggests that about two-thirds would qualify for an amnesty which granted legal status to those who have been resident for at least five years.
The estimates suggest that regularisation could raise an individual's earnings by 25 per cent and employment rates by 6 per cent. This would mean an additional boost of £3 billion a year to the national gross domestic product.
The Home Office has admitted the impossibility of forcibly removing so many visa overstayers and refused asylum seekers. In other countries such as the US, France, Spain, Italy and Greece amnesties and regularisation programmes have been used.