Amnesty on illegal immigrants is 'worth £6bn to UK'

A vast hidden army of illegal immigrants ensures that each day thousands of offices and homes are cleaned, streets are swept and drinks are served in Britain's pubs and clubs.

From London's building sites to farms in East Anglia, and from late-night takeaways to the treacherous sands of Morecambe Bay, they generally fill the jobs deemed too menial or too hazardous by UK nationals. If discovered, they face deportation. But according to a radical new study published today, an amnesty on their status could be worth up to £6bn to the economy.

By giving the hundreds of thousands of illegal immigrants in Britain a promise that they will not be deported, at least £1bn a year would be raised in taxes, the Institute for Public Policy Research (IPPR) has calculated. The left-leaning think-tank, which has the ear of Downing Street, also warns that government plans to tighten restrictions on bona fide migrants could have the perverse effect of driving more "illegals" underground.

The most recent Home Office estimate suggested there could be between 310,000 and 570,000 unauthorised migrants in Britain, with ministers admitting it is impossible to be more precise.

The IPPR says most are "likely to be doing jobs that could be characterised as dirty, difficult and dangerous", including work in construction, agriculture, cleaning and residential care. It concludes that deporting hundreds of thousands of "irregular migrants", as it describes them, is "simply not feasible".

Citing the success of immigration amnesties in the US and Spain, it urges the British Government to "regularise their work status". It contrasts the estimated boost to the public coffers with the potential £4.7bn cost of deporting all of them.

The IPPR also warns that a new government drive to give priority to skilled foreign workers "may provide incentives for those ineligible under the proposed system to migrate without permission". It argues that tighter controls on the US-Mexico border could have had the unintended effect of keeping in the US migrants that it wants to shut out.

Nick Pearce, the director of the IPPR, said: "We need proper border controls and managed legal migration. But immigrants also need to be given a chance to play by the book. There are thousands of people in Britain who work day in, day out, in often atrocious conditions for pitiful pay. They would love to pay taxes, earn the minimum wage and travel in and out of the country legally. London's economy in particular rests on their labour.

"It is inconceivable that these people will all be deported, even in the wildest fantasies of the anti-immigration right. The Immigration Service has more than enough on its hands policing our borders and removing newly arrived failed asylum-seekers. To go round the country finding, detaining and then deporting up to half a million people who don't have regular status simply will not happen."

Its report came after Home Office figures suggested racial tension is growing in several parts of the country. The number of racist incidents recorded by police in England and Wales jumped by 12 per cent to more than 59,000 last year, with even sharper rises in shire counties such as Hertfordshire, Hampshire and North Yorkshire. Many of the attacks take place against a backdrop of relentlessly negative coverage of migrant workers, portrayed as "spongers" on the British state.

The Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants backed calls for an amnesty for workers who were making a positive contribution to the nation.

Habib Rahman, its chief executive, said: "As long as migrants' presence and contribution is not officially recognised, they are without rights and without a stakehold in society. As events at Morecambe Bay have demonstrated all too tragically, this leaves them open to exploitation."

Tony Woodley, the general secretary of the T&G union, said: "Workers worried about their immigration status are among the most exploited in our workplaces. Global criminal operations extort their money, while in the workplace unscrupulous employers can intimidate them without fear of reproach.

"The only way to end this exploitation is to end the isolation these workers experience."

Tony McNulty, the Immigration minister, said: "Illegal immigration is not something the Government is simply going to accept and is taking steps wherever possible to tackle this issue." He said the Government's points-based approach would be "robust against those seeking to abuse the system, while welcoming workers who have the skills needed to benefit the UK economy".

Immigration: The facts we are never told

* There are between 310,000 and 570,000 illegal immigrants in the UK, according to Home Office estimates

* If allowed to live legally, they would pay more than £1bn in tax each year

* Deporting them would cost £4.7bn and leave acute shortages of cleaners, care workers and hotel staff cIf allowed to stay, the net benefit of nearly £6bn would pay for 300 new schools, 12 district hospitals or 200,000 new nurses

* Nearly 50% of foreign-born immigrants leave Britain within five years

* Migrants fill 90% of low-paid jobs in London and account for 29% of the capital's workforce. London is the UK's fastest-growing region

* Legal migrants comprise 8.7% of the population, but contribute 10.2% of all taxes. Each immigrant pays an average of £7,203 in tax, compared with £6,861 for non-migrant workers

* There were 25,715 people claiming asylum last year. If allowed to work, they would generate £123m for the Treasury

'We have been betrayed, cheated and robbed'

* "Charles", a nursing assistant from Brazil, came to Britain to visit his mother.

Once here, he paid £500 for fake Portuguese identity papers enabling him to work. He said: "These are made in London very quickly." He travelled to Leicester, bought a false national insurance certificate for £100, and signed up with an employment agency with arelaxed attitude to false paperwork. A gangmaster posing as a supervisor was given another £200 and Charles soon landed a job producing salad, fruit pies, fruit juice and jellies for high- street stores. He worked six days a week, getting up at 3.30am to catch the agency bus which took the "illegals" to work. He was paid £4.50 an hour.

He was picked up in an immigration raid. "Our supervisor had denounced us, and the agency washed its hands. We were locked in cells. We have been betrayed, cheated and robbed," he said. He has recently been deported.

* "Alfred" left his family behind in Nigeria five years ago. He arrived on a student visa but stayed on after it ran out.

Instead of studying for a degree, he took work involving cleaning up after undergraduates at a well-known London college.

Although Alfred and his fellow workers - many of whom were also in Britain illegally - were paid the minimum wage, they worked in appalling conditions and suffered routine verbal abuse.

His patience finally ran out and he started protesting about their treatment.

A friend of Alfred's said: "Everyone was being exploited, whether they were legal or not.

"When he started to make a fuss, he was told that if he didn't keep quiet he would be reported to immigration."

Alfred left the job soon afterwards and has since disappeared.

Arts & Entertainment
Madonna in her music video for 'Like A Virgin'
music... and other misheard song lyrics
Sport
Steven Gerrard had to be talked into adopting a deeper role by his manager, Brendan Rodgers
sportThe city’s fight for justice after Hillsborough is embodied in Steven Gerrard, who's poised to lead his club to a remarkable triumph
News
Much of the colleges’ land is off-limits to locals in Cambridge, with tight security
educationAnd has the Cambridge I knew turned its back on me?
News
Waitrose will be bringing in more manned tills
newsOverheard in Waitrose: documenting the chatter in 'Britain's poshest supermarket'
VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition iPad app?
News
The energy drink MosKa was banned for containing a heavy dose of the popular erectile dysfunction Levitra
news
Environment
People are buying increasing numbers of plants such as lavender to aid the insects
environmentGardeners rally round the endangered bumblebee
Sport
Australia's Dylan Tombides competes for the ball with Adal Matar of Kuwait during the AFC U-22 Championship Group C match in January
sportDylan Tombides was diagnosed with testicular cancer in 2011
Arts & Entertainment
Customers browse through Vinyl Junkies record shop in Berwick Street, Soho, London
musicBest exclusives coming to an independent record shop near you this Record Store Day
News
Ida Beate Loken has been living at the foot of a mountain since May
newsNorwegian gives up home comforts for a cave
Extras
indybest10 best gardening gloves
Arts & Entertainment
tvIt might all be getting a bit much, but this is still the some of the finest TV ever made, says Grace Dent
Arts & Entertainment
Comedian Lenny Henry is calling for more regulation to support ethnic actors on TV
tvActor and comedian leads campaign against 'lack of diversity' in British television
News
Posted at the end of March, this tweeted photo was a week off the end of their Broadway shows
people
News
peopleStar to remain in hospital for up to 27 days to get over allergic reaction
Arts & Entertainment
The Honesty Policy is a group of anonymous Muslims who believe that the community needs a space to express itself without shame or judgement
music
News
Who makes you happy?
happy listSend your nominations now for the Independent on Sunday Happy List
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition iPad app?
Independent Dating
and  

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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Apprentice IT Technician

£150.00 per week: QA Apprenticeships: This company is a company that specializ...

1st Line Technical Service Desk Analyst IT Apprentice

£153.75 per week: QA Apprenticeships: This company is an innovative outsourcin...

1st Line Helpdesk Engineer Apprentice

£150.00 per week: QA Apprenticeships: This company has been providing on site ...

Sales Associate Apprentice

£150.00 per week: QA Apprenticeships: We've been supplying best of breed peopl...

Day In a Page

How I brokered a peace deal with Robert Mugabe: Roy Agyemang reveals the delicate diplomacy needed to get Zimbabwe’s President to sit down with the BBC

How I brokered a peace deal with Robert Mugabe

Roy Agyemang reveals the delicate diplomacy needed to get Zimbabwe’s President to sit down with the BBC
Video of British Muslims dancing to Pharrell Williams's hit Happy attacked as 'sinful'

British Muslims's Happy video attacked as 'sinful'

The four-minute clip by Honesty Policy has had more than 300,000 hits on YouTube
Church of England-raised Michael Williams describes the unexpected joys in learning about his family's Jewish faith

Michael Williams: Do as I do, not as I pray

Church of England-raised Williams describes the unexpected joys in learning about his family's Jewish faith
A History of the First World War in 100 moments: A visit to the Front Line by the Prime Minister's wife

A History of the First World War in 100 moments

A visit to the Front Line by the Prime Minister's wife
Comedian Jenny Collier: 'Sexism I experienced on stand-up circuit should be extinct'

Jenny Collier: 'Sexism on stand-up circuit should be extinct'

The comedian's appearance at a show on the eve of International Women's Day was cancelled because they had "too many women" on the bill
Cannes Film Festival: Ken Loach and Mike Leigh to fight it out for the Palme d'Or

Cannes Film Festival

Ken Loach and Mike Leigh to fight it out for the Palme d'Or
The concept album makes surprise top ten return with neolithic opus from Jethro Tull's Ian Anderson

The concept album makes surprise top ten return

Neolithic opus from Jethro Tull's Ian Anderson is unexpected success
Lichen is the surprise new ingredient on fine-dining menus, thanks to our love of Scandinavian and Indian cuisines

Lichen is surprise new ingredient on fine-dining menus

Emily Jupp discovers how it can give a unique, smoky flavour to our cooking
10 best baking books

10 best baking books

Planning a spot of baking this bank holiday weekend? From old favourites to new releases, here’s ten cookbooks for you
Jury still out on Manchester City boss Manuel Pellegrini

Jury still out on Pellegrini

Draw with Sunderland raises questions over Manchester City manager's ability to motivate and unify his players
Ben Stokes: 'Punching lockers isn't way forward'

Ben Stokes: 'Punching lockers isn't way forward'

The all-rounder has been hailed as future star after Ashes debut but incident in Caribbean added to doubts about discipline. Jon Culley meets a man looking to control his emotions
Mark Johnston: First £1 million jackpot spurs him on

Mark Johnston: First £1 million jackpot spurs him on

The most prize money ever at an All-Weather race day is up for grabs at Lingfield on Friday, and the record-breaking trainer tells Jon Freeman how times have changed
Ricky Gervais: 'People are waiting for me to fail. If you think it's awful, then just don't watch it'

Ricky Gervais: 'People are waiting for me to fail'

As the second series of his divisive sitcom 'Derek' hits screens, the comedian tells James Rampton why he'll never bow to the critics who habitually circle his work
Mad Men series 7, TV review: The suits are still sharp, but Don Draper has lost his edge

Mad Men returns for a final fling

The suits are still sharp, but Don Draper has lost his edge
Google finds a lift into space will never get off the ground as there is no material strong enough for a cable from Earth into orbit

Google finds a lift into space will never get off the ground

Technology giant’s scientists say there is no material strong enough for a cable from Earth into orbit