Archbishop backs amnesty for Britain's illegal immigrants

England's senior Catholic laments 'exploitation of those who live beneath the radar'

The head of the Catholic Church in England and Wales has called on the Government to provide an amnesty for illegal immigrants who have been resident in the UK for several years – backing an outspoken call at the weekend by the London Mayor Boris Johnson which puts him at odds with his party leader, David Cameron.

Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O'Connor said large numbers of migrants who live below the radar are easily exploited because they have no official status, and that more should be done to "appreciate the gifts" they bring.

"A lot of the people who come are quite vulnerable and can easily be threatened and exploited," the Catholic leader told BBC Radio 4's Sunday programme. "But I think also there is a point about some migrants who come here and are here for years and they are undocumented. After a certain time a way should be given for them to receive citizenship here and so get the benefits of that."

His comments came the day after Mr Johnson announced a feasibility study into an amnesty for illegal immigrants. Supporters say it would see up to 700,000 illegal workers coming in from the cold to work legally and pay taxes. Mr Johnson said: "I welcome the Cardinal's comments. It's clear there is a case to consider here and no debate would be undone by being better informed."

The Government has so far resisted calls for an amnesty for failed asylum- seekers and visa overstayers, arguing that allowing one would only lead to an increase in trafficking and asylum applications. Mr Johnson's senior Conservative Party colleagues also oppose an amnesty; Mr Cameron and the shadow Home Secretary Dominic Grieve say that UK borders are too porous at present to deal with a predicted influx of migrants.

There are between 500,000 and 700,000 illegal immigrants in Britain with the vast majority working in the South-east and London. Although some use false documents and therefore pay taxes, others are asylum-seekers prevented from working legally, or can only find work through gang masters and people traffickers. According to the Home Office's statistics, it would take 25 years to remove all Britain's illegal workers at the current rates of deportations. Supporters look to Italy and Spain, where similar amnesties brought hundreds of thousands of illegal workers in from the cold. The Institute for Public Policy Research estimates that the extra fiscal regularisation of illegal workers would bring the Exchequer between £500m and £1bn in extra tax revenues.

But those opposed to the idea say an amnesty could cost almost as much to implement and warn that such an increase in the legal workforce could have a detrimental effect on jobs, particularly during a looming recession. Sir Andrew Green, chairman of Migration Watch UK, said that it was "frankly irresponsible" to talk of an amnesty during the current economic crisis. "The experience of other countries like Italy and Spain is that amnesties simply produce yet more applicants every time," he said.

During the London mayoral election this year, one of the policies that all four candidates agreed on was the need to provide an amnesty to such immigrants.

* A senior member of the Roman Catholic clergy has attacked the values of the “market” and called on the Government to look to Christian and spiritual ethics for solutions to the credit crisis this summer. The Archbishop of Birmingham, the Most Rev Vincent Nichols, said it would take more than financial measures to take Britain out of recession. He said: “What the market lacked was the perspective and practice of true virtue, which builds trust, and without which every human endeavour is unstable.”

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooksA celebration of British elections
Arts and Entertainment
tvGame of Thrones season 5 ep 4, review - WARNING: contains major spoiliers!
Tottenham legend Jimmy Greaves has defended fans use of the word 'Yid'
Arts and Entertainment
Kanye West, performing in New York last week, has been the subject of controversy as rock's traditional headline slot at Glastonbury is lost once again
Arts and Entertainment
The Ridiculous Six has been produced by Adam Sandler, who also stars in it
filmNew controversy after nine Native American actors walked off set
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Senior Digital Marketing Consultant

£28000 - £45000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Senior Digital Marketing Cons...

Recruitment Genius: Assistant Stores Keeper

£16640 - £18500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An Assistant Stores Keeper is r...

Recruitment Genius: Claims Administrator

£16000 - £18500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an excellent opportunit...

Recruitment Genius: Software Developer - C# / ASP.NET / SQL

£17000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Developer required to join a bu...

Day In a Page

Fishing for votes with Nigel Farage: The Ukip leader shows how he can work an audience as he casts his line to the disaffected of Grimsby

Fishing is on Nigel Farage's mind

Ukip leader casts a line to the disaffected
Who is bombing whom in the Middle East? It's amazing they don't all hit each other

Who is bombing whom in the Middle East?

Robert Fisk untangles the countries and factions
China's influence on fashion: At the top of the game both creatively and commercially

China's influence on fashion

At the top of the game both creatively and commercially
Lord O’Donnell: Former cabinet secretary on the election and life away from the levers of power

The man known as GOD has a reputation for getting the job done

Lord O'Donnell's three principles of rule
Rainbow shades: It's all bright on the night

Rainbow shades

It's all bright on the night
'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

Bread from heaven

Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

How 'the Axe' helped Labour

UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power
Rare and exclusive video shows the horrific price paid by activists for challenging the rule of jihadist extremists in Syria

The price to be paid for challenging the rule of extremists

A revolution now 'consuming its own children'
Welcome to the world of Megagames

Welcome to the world of Megagames

300 players take part in Watch the Skies! board game in London
'Nymphomaniac' actress reveals what it was really like to star in one of the most explicit films ever

Charlotte Gainsbourg on 'Nymphomaniac'

Starring in one of the most explicit films ever
Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers

Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi

The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers
Vince Cable interview: Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'

Vince Cable exclusive interview

Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'
Iwan Rheon interview: Game of Thrones star returns to his Welsh roots to record debut album

Iwan Rheon is returning to his Welsh roots

Rheon is best known for his role as the Bastard of Bolton. It's gruelling playing a sadistic torturer, he tells Craig McLean, but it hasn't stopped him recording an album of Welsh psychedelia
Russell Brand's interview with Ed Miliband has got everyone talking about The Trews

Everyone is talking about The Trews

Russell Brand's 'true news' videos attract millions of viewers. But today's 'Milibrand' interview introduced his resolutely amateurish style to a whole new crowd
Morne Hardenberg interview: Cameraman for BBC's upcoming show Shark on filming the ocean's most dangerous predator

It's time for my close-up

Meet the man who films great whites for a living