A Birmingham MP has heavily criticised proposals to give Britain’s estimated 500,000 illegal immigrants legitimacy in exchange for a £5,000 fee.
Liberal think-tank Centre Forum said anyone here illegally for more than three months should be allowed to begin an “enrolment period” for a £200 charge, followed by five annual instalments of about £1,000.
At the end of the process, they could be granted permanent residence in the UK if they fulfilled a series of criteria, such as being able to prove they were paying taxes, holding a stable job and able to speak basic English.
The think-tank claimed the proposed system would make it easier for the government to target illegals who posed a genuine security threat, and would also improve community relations.
Co-author Will Somerville said: “Deporting all Britain’s illegal immigrants is simply impossible. Any rational approach to the problem must involve some form of regularisation.
“The policy we set out would increase security, prosperity and social cohesion.”
But Minister for Borders and Immigration Liam Byrne, who is also MP for Birmingham Hodge Hill, said: “This proposal is truly preposterous. We will never reward illegal immigrants with an amnesty, never mind an amnesty for sale.
“I think people here illegally should go home. That’s why we’re now deporting someone every eight minutes and doubling our frontline enforcement resources, introducing compulsory ID cards for foreign nationals and changing the law so legal migrants who benefit the UK have to earn their right to stay by speaking English and obeying the law.”
And Sir Andrew Green, chairman of Migrationwatch, which campaigns against mass immigration, said: “This is a lunatic proposal.
“Nothing could be more calculated to encourage still more illegal immigration.”
Under the proposals, any applicants who did not meet criteria after five years would be expected to return to their home country voluntarily within six months, and would be entitled to a £2,500 refund on their fees. Those who failed to go would be deported and lose all £5,000, the think-tank suggested.
The fees would meet the cost of operating the scheme, it added.
“A radical re-think of how best to deal with the estimated 500,000 illegal immigrants in the UK is long overdue,” the report by Mr Somerville and Demetrios Papademetriou said.