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Friday, December 9, 2016
Summary: 'Strangers Into Citizens' campaign
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¬†In the light of the Von Hugel report into the Catholic Church and migrants, the following is a brief summary of the 'Strangers into Citizens' campaign by the Citizen Organising Foundation (an alliance of faith and community organizations in London and Birmingham) whose best known "chapter" is Telco in East London. The campaign was partly inspired by Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O'Connor's call for regularization at last year's 1 May Mass for Migrant workers at Westminster Cathedral. The campaign is supported by the Mayor of London, the Green Party, and increasing number of MPs and businesses. STRANGERS INTO CITIZENS is a campaign by the country's largest alliance of civic institutions for a pathway into citizenship for undocumented migrants who have made new lives in the UK. The Citizens Organising Foundation (COF) believes the case for an "earned amnesty" is compelling, on humanitarian, economic, fiscal and administrative grounds; and is busy building an alliance of citizens calling on Government to implement a one-off "earned amnesty" law as part of its overhaul of the UK's immigration policy. FACING FACTS There are between 300,000 and 500,000 irregular migrants in Britain - a combination of refused asylum seekers and visa overstayers. Many of them are here to stay, either because they are afraid to go back, or do not want to go back because they have jobs and livelihoods in the UK. Many use false documents; they pay taxes and contribute to economic growth. Or they are asylum-seekers prevented from working who are asking for the dignity of being allowed to do so. We believe that those who have been here for four or more years should be admitted to a two-year pathway to citizenship during which they demonstrate their capacity to work and contribute to the UK's economy and society. The alternative is no alternative. The Home Office admits that at the current rate of deportations, it would take 25 years to remove hundreds of thousands of irregular migrants, and cost billions of pounds. Nor ≠ if it were possible - would it make any sense to do so: as economists, the CBI and the TUC agree, continued migration is vital to meet skills shortages and is responsible for our current low-inflation growth. A report by the National Crime Intelligence Service has summarised the total loss to the Exchequer from unpaid tax and NI contributions to be as much as £3.3 billion ≠ enough to build 132 schools or 13 hospitals. The extra fiscal revenue from regularization would result in a net gain to the Exchequer of between £500m to £1bn, according to estimates by the Institute of Public Policy Research (IPPR). Maintaining the current policy is causing chaos, distress, bureaucratic logjams and misery on a large scale. Hardworking people are criminalized, honest people turned into liars. The law, which is out of sync with reality, is being abused. Thousands of people are living and working in the dark, subject to exploitation, unaccountable to the law and beyond its protection. The underground economy is growing. It is time for a one-off reform of the law ≠ a simple, practical measure that would liberate good people from limbo and allow them to take their place as law-abiding citizens in our nation. Other European countries have carried out similar regularization measures (sometimes called "amnesties") as a way of closing the gap between law and reality. Spain, Italy, Greece, the Netherlands and Germany have all introduced some form of wide-ranging regularization in the past few years ≠ each measure has been different, and geared to the particular needs of each nation. We believe it is time now for the UK to do the same. CONTROLLING OUR BORDERS, RESPECTING MIGRANTS There needs to be an element of deterrence in our immigration policy: a country has the right to regulate its borders. An amnesty with too generous provisions could have a green-light effect ≠ hence our four-year minimum criterion. There is no longer a deterrent effect in criminalizing people who are hard-working, honest and conscientious, who pay taxes and contribute to society, and who have put down roots in the UK. Forcing them to live beyond the law does not make our borders stronger but brings the law into disrepute. People-traffickers, drug traffickers, international criminals and terrorists are hard to track down because of the large numbers in the underground economy. Regularization will help to expose these undesirables, enabling the immigration authorities to concentrate resources on removing them. Regularization is not, therefore, an "opening" of Britain's borders, but a humanitarian, sensible, practical way of dealing with the consequences of more than a decade of immigration. Regularization would also be of great benefit to our beleaguered asylum process, clearing at a stroke the huge backlog of cases dating back to the late 1990s. The measure would bring relief and hope to thousands left destitute or in limbo, freeing up their energies and gifts to the benefit of the economy. CREATING CIVIC SPACE FOR POLITICAL ACTION Despite authoritative public policy reports promoting the idea, the political parties are reluctant publicly to discuss the idea. Many politicians fear that by allowing discussion of this pragmatic measure, they will look soft on the issue. STRANGERS INTO CITIZENS is, above all, a public-opinion campaign aimed at making the issue part of the national conversation. Our growing alliance of faith, business and public-sector bodies ≠ as well as MPs - is providing evidence of broad civic support for an earned amnesty, creating the political space for Government to act. On 7 May 2007, following a service at Westminster Cathedral, we will show that the measure has strong civic backing in a march to Parliament Square. THE BENEFITS OF REGULARIZATION A one-off, time-limited, "earned amnesty" for migrants has many advantages. It recognises the dignity of human beings who have made new lives in Britain; extends and reinforces the rule of law; levels the playing-field for low-paid workers; enables businesses to employ legally the labour it needs; recognises the role that migrants already play in society; ensures that tens of thousands of British workers receive the protection of the law; shrinks the black economy; free up billions of pounds in taxes for the Exchequer; enables local authorities to plan better; solves the expensive, inhuman delay in processing old asylum claims; builds a more cohesive British society; and turns outlaws into neighbours ≠ "strangers into citizens" - in the best British tradition of pragmatism and justice. For more information see www.strangersintocitizens.org.uk
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