Leading article: Yes to an amnesty, but not yet

Share
Related Topics

The Commons Home Affairs Committee used some colourful language to describe the backlog of failed migrants who remain in Britain illegally. Its latest report said the figure was equivalent to the population of Newcastle-upon-Tyne. The committee chairman, Keith Vaz, accused the UK Border Agency of creating something akin to the Bermuda Triangle, that was easy to get into, but impossible to get out of. A Conservative chairman might have been still more damning.

It is now six years since the then Home Secretary John Reid, described the immigration directorate as "not fit for purpose", and two years since the Coalition came to power, promising not only to reduce net migration to "tens of thousands", but to get to grips – finally – with the backlog. Clearly, this is not happening, or if it is, then it is happening too slowly to make much difference. And it is this sense of always running to catch up that raises once again the question of an amnesty. Would it not be more realistic, more honest, and just better for all concerned to concede that those currently in Britain illegally are unlikely to be forced to leave, and give them the chance to live, work and pay their taxes as citizens?

The answer has to be "yes, but". Amnesties have a habit of perpetuating themselves, encouraging others to try the illegal route in the hope that they might in time become legal, too. So before an amnesty is announced, the Government must be able to convince voters that the borders are not as porous as they appear and that the UKBA is in a position to guarantee that the old backlog will not just be replaced by a new one. Clearly, at present, it is not.

But the other precondition must be a reliable record of those leaving, as well as entering, the country – and that means that exit controls, abolished in 1994, must be reintroduced. For years, ministers have said that the planned e-borders system was the solution. Now that e-borders seems to have gone the way of other government computer projects, exits as well as entries must be logged. Who knows, the data might show that the backlog is not as far out of control as the Home Office committee fears.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
SPONSORED FEATURES
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant - Birmingham

£18000 - £23000 per annum + Uncapped OTE: SThree: SThree Trainee Recruitment C...

Recruitment Genius: Interactive / Mobile Developer

£40000 - £45000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This digital production agency ...

Recruitment Genius: PHP Developer - Midweight

£40000 - £45000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This digital production agency ...

Recruitment Genius: Junior Front End Developer

£20000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This digital production agency ...

Day In a Page

Read Next
The UCAS clearing house call centre in Cheltenham, England  

Ucas should share its data on students from poor backgrounds so we can get a clearer picture of social mobility

Conor Ryan
A study of 16 young women performing light office work showed that they were at risk of being over-chilled by air conditioning in summer  

It's not just air conditioning that's guilty of camouflage sexism

Mollie Goodfellow
Giants Club: After wholesale butchery of Idi Amin's regime, Uganda’s giants flourish once again

Uganda's giants are flourishing once again

After the wholesale butchery of Idi Amin's regime, elephant populations are finally recovering
The London: After 350 years, the riddle of Britain's exploding fleet is finally solved

After 350 years, the riddle of Britain's exploding fleet is finally solved

Archaeologists will recover a crucial item from the wreck of the London which could help shed more light on what happened in the vessel's final seconds
Airbus has patented a jet that could fly from London to New York in one hour

Airbus has patented a jet that could fly from London to New York in one hour

The invention involves turbojets and ramjets - a type of jet engine - and a rocket motor
10 best sun creams for kids

10 best sun creams for kids

Protect delicate and sensitive skin with products specially formulated for little ones
Tate Sensorium: New exhibition at Tate Britain invites art lovers to taste, smell and hear art

Tate Sensorium

New exhibition at Tate Britain invites art lovers to taste, smell and hear art
Ashes 2015: Nice guy Steven Finn is making up for lost time – and quickly

Nice guy Finn is making up for lost time – and quickly

He was man-of-the-match in the third Test following his recall to the England side
Ashes 2015: Remember Ashton Agar? The No 11 that nearly toppled England

Remember Ashton Agar?

The No 11 that nearly toppled England
Turkey-Kurdish conflict: Obama's deal with Ankara is a betrayal of Syrian Kurds and may not even weaken Isis

US betrayal of old ally brings limited reward

Since the accord, the Turks have only waged war on Kurds while no US bomber has used Incirlik airbase, says Patrick Cockburn
VIPs gather for opening of second Suez Canal - but doubts linger over security

'A gift from Egypt to the rest of the world'

VIPs gather for opening of second Suez Canal - but is it really needed?
Jeremy Corbyn dresses abysmally. That's a great thing because it's genuine

Jeremy Corbyn dresses abysmally. That's a great thing because it's genuine

Fashion editor, Alexander Fury, applauds a man who clearly has more important things on his mind
The male menopause and intimations of mortality

Aches, pains and an inkling of mortality

So the male menopause is real, they say, but what would the Victorians, 'old' at 30, think of that, asks DJ Taylor
Man Booker Prize 2015: Anna Smaill - How can I possibly be on the list with these writers I have idolised?

'How can I possibly be on the list with these writers I have idolised?'

Man Booker Prize nominee Anna Smaill on the rise of Kiwi lit
Bettany Hughes interview: The historian on how Socrates would have solved Greece's problems

Bettany Hughes interview

The historian on how Socrates would have solved Greece's problems
Art of the state: Pyongyang propaganda posters to be exhibited in China

Art of the state

Pyongyang propaganda posters to be exhibited in China
Mildreds and Vanilla Black have given vegetarian food a makeover in new cookbooks

Vegetarian food gets a makeover

Long-time vegetarian Holly Williams tries to recreate some of the inventive recipes in Mildreds and Vanilla Black's new cookbooks