Mayoral candidates unite in call for illegal immigration amnesty

Today, all four major candidates in London's mayoral election join religious and business leaders in proposing a radical solution for illegal immigrants

A formidable coalition of businessmen, politicians, religious leaders and community workers will pledge their support tonight for an amnesty for illegal immigrants who have been resident in the UK for several years and can pass strict tests to prove their contribution to British society.

All four of London's main mayoral candidates – including, against the official policy of his party, the Tory candidate Boris Johnson – will back the campaign to offer undocumented workers the chance to be integrated into mainstream society and obtain papers allowing them to work and pay taxes legally.

In an unprecedented move that will exert even more pressure on the Government to heed calls for an amnesty, they will be joined by an array of influential figures from outside the political world, including Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O'Connor, Dr Muhammad Abdul Bari, leader of the Muslim Council of Britain and Stephen O'Brien, one of the City's leading businessmen.

"Enormous untapped potential and appalling waste is taking place right in front us," Mr O'Brien, chairman of the lobby group London First and former chief executive of Business in the Community, said yesterday. "Business leaders recognise that the case for an amnesty is both principled and pragmatic. The economic and moral case for liberating this army of workers from the underground economy is irrefutable."

The Government's tough new immigration controls have just suffered an embarrassing setback when the High Court ruled them illegal and unfair. Home Office changes to the Highly Skilled Migrants Programme (HSMP), which could lead to thousands of deportations, amounted to "conspicuous unfairness and an abuse of power", judges concluded.

Pressure to make the offer of a one-off amnesty has intensified in the wake of a campaign by London Citizens, the capital's largest community organisation. At a public assembly in Westminster tonight, more than 2,000 representatives of the city's community groups will demand the next mayor back their campaign. All four candidates, the Labour Mayor Ken Livingstone, the Liberal Democrats' Brian Paddick, the Green Party's Sian Berry and Mr Johnson, will agree.

Bishop Pat Lynch, a senior representative of Cardinal Murphy-O'Connor, said the Catholic Church backed the changes to reward immigrants who have proved their worth to British society. "We support an agreed pathway into citizenship for irregular migrants," he said. "Families like them have contributed in a number of ways to society through work, commitment to family and schools. They are settled and trying to integrate into British life." The Muslim leader Dr Bari added: "We have to find a way of helping these people become legal citizens. We are happy to accept their labour, but not grant them rights. The present situation is not just or right and we need to come to their aid."

Estimates of the number of illegal workers range from 500,000 to 700,000, half of which may be failed asylum-seekers. An estimated two-thirds of illegal migrants work in London and the South-east, in cleaning, catering, hospitality and construction. Because they do not have legal rights, their pay and conditions are subject to abrupt changes.

The Government has steadfastly refused to agree to a blanket amnesty, claiming it would lead to a vast increase in the number of immigrants arriving. Liam Byrne, the Immigration minister, reaffirmed the Government's commitment to clampdown on businesses employing workers without full legal rights.

But critics say granting deserving candidates an amnesty would be ethically and financially sound. A report by the Institute for Public Policy Research concludes that allowing illegal immigrants to work legally and pay taxes could yield a windfall of between £1bn and £3.3bn.

Last month Mr Livingstone called for a "fresh start", with a one-off amnesty for migrants without "regular status", in spite of his party's stance. "Migrants contribute hugely to the economic, civic and cultural life of London and the UK," he said. "To have a substantial number of them living here without regular status because of deep-rooted failings in the immigration system, some dating back over a decade, is deeply damaging to London as well as to them."

London Citizens' proposals demand undocumented workers meet strict criteria before obtaining full legal privileges. These include proof of their residence in the UK for at least four years, no significant criminal record, and a willingness to learn English. If individuals met these criteria, they would be placed on a two-year path to citizenship, after which they would have to have a favourable reference from an employer or a community leader.

The Liberal Democrats are the only party committed to the idea of an "earned path to citizenship". The Tory leader, David Cameron, distanced himself from an amnesty, saying: "Boris is his own man. He is standing on his own platform and he dictates his own policies."

In the High Court, Sir George Newman said there was no reason why migrants who had come to Britain in 2002 under the HSMP should be deported for failing to accrue the requisite number of points. But Mr Byrne said he would appeal against the ruling.

Click here to have your say

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
News
Bryan Cranston as Walter White, in the acclaimed series 'Breaking Bad'
news
News
Those who were encouraged to walk in a happy manner remembered less negative words
science
Sport
footballChelsea 6 Maribor 0: Blues warm up for Premier League showdown with stroll in Champions League - but Mourinho is short of strikers
Arts and Entertainment
Princess Olga in 'You Can't Get the Staff'
tvReview: The anachronistic aristocrats, it seemed, were just happy to have some attention
News
Renee Zellweger as Bridget Jones
i100
Life and Style
tech

Board creates magnetic field to achieve lift

News
There have been various incidents of social media users inadvertently flouting the law
news

Life and Style
Stack ‘em high?: quantity doesn’t always trump quality, as Friends of the Earth can testify
techThe proliferation of online petitions allows us to register our protests at the touch of a button. But do they change anything?
News
Bourgogne wine maker Laboure-Roi vice president Thibault Garin (L) offers the company's 2013 Beaujolais Nouveau wine to the guest in the wine spa at the Hakone Yunessun spa resort facilities in Hakone town, Kanagawa prefecture, some 100-kilometre west of Tokyo
i100
Sport
CSKA Moscow celebrate after equalising with a late penalty
footballCSKA Moscow 2 Manchester City 2: Premier League champions let two goal lead slip in Russia
Environment
Sudan, the last male northern white rhino
environmentThe death of a white northern rhino in Kenya has left the species with a single male. These are the other species on the brink
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

IT Project Manager

Competitive: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Our client based in Chelmsford a...

Business Intelligence Specialist - work from home

£40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: An established and growing IT Consultancy fir...

Business Intelligence Specialist - work from home

£40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: An established and growing IT Consultancy fir...

IT Manager

£40000 - £45000 per annum + pension, healthcare,25 days: Ashdown Group: An est...

Day In a Page

Indiana serial killer? Man arrested for murdering teenage prostitute confesses to six other murders - and police fear there could be many more

A new American serial killer?

Police fear man arrested for murder of teen prostitute could be responsible for killing spree dating back 20 years
Sweetie, the fake 10-year-old girl designed to catch online predators, claims her first scalp

Sting to trap paedophiles may not carry weight in UK courts

Computer image of ‘Sweetie’ represented entrapment, experts say
Fukushima nuclear crisis: Evacuees still stuck in cramped emergency housing three years on - and may never return home

Return to Fukushima – a land they will never call home again

Evacuees still stuck in cramped emergency housing three years on from nuclear disaster
Wildlife Photographer of the Year: Intimate image of resting lions claims top prize

Wildlife Photographer of the Year

Intimate image of resting lions claims top prize
Online petitions: Sign here to change the world

Want to change the world? Just sign here

The proliferation of online petitions allows us to register our protests at the touch of a button. But do they change anything?
Ed Sheeran hits back after being labelled too boring to headline festivals

'You need me, I don’t need you'

Ed Sheeran hits back after being labelled too boring to headline festivals
How to Get Away with Murder: Shonda Rhimes reinvents the legal drama

How to Get Away with Murder

Shonda Rhimes reinvents the legal drama
A cup of tea is every worker's right

Hard to swallow

Three hospitals in Leicester have banned their staff from drinking tea and coffee in public areas. Christopher Hirst explains why he thinks that a cuppa is every worker's right
Which animals are nearly extinct?

Which animals are nearly extinct?

Conservationists in Kenya are in mourning after the death of a white northern rhino, which has left the species with a single male. These are the other species on the brink
12 best children's shoes

Perfect for leaf-kicking: 12 best children's shoes

Find footwear perfect to keep kids' feet protected this autumn
Anderlecht vs Arsenal: Gunners' ray of light Aaron Ramsey shines again

Arsenal’s ray of light ready to shine again

Aaron Ramsey’s injury record has prompted a club investigation. For now, the midfielder is just happy to be fit to face Anderlecht in the Champions League
Comment: David Moyes' show of sensitivity thrown back in his face by former Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson

Moyes’ show of sensitivity thrown back in his face... by Ferguson

Manchester United legend tramples on successor who resisted criticising his inheritance
Two super-sized ships have cruised into British waters, but how big can these behemoths get?

Super-sized ships: How big can they get?

Two of the largest vessels in the world cruised into UK waters last week
British doctors on brink of 'cure' for paralysis with spinal cord treatment

British doctors on brink of cure for paralysis

Sufferers can now be offered the possibility of cure thanks to a revolutionary implant of regenerative cells
Ranked seventh in world’s best tourist cities - not London, or Edinburgh, but Salisbury

Lonely Planet’s Best in Travel 2015

UK city beats Vienna, Paris and New York to be ranked seventh in world’s best tourist destinations - but it's not London