Strangers into Citizens dismiss MigrationWatch claims as 'bogus'

 Claims by the anti-immigration lobby MigrationWatch that allowing irregular migrants a way of becoming legal would cost the UK billions have been dismissed by the organisers of a major rally in central London today.

"Neither Sir Andrew Green nor I are economists," said Dr Austen Ivereigh, the campaign's director of policy. "So we should defer to those who are. And they are agreed that a Spanish-style regularisation,
as advocated by President Obama, has great economic benefits."

Dr Ivereigh pointed to research published today by the think-tank IPPR, which estimates the benefit of an amnesty in the billions, and to a 2007 Council of Europe report which concluded that regularisation was beneficial for both economic and humanitarian reasons.

Strangers into Citizens is a campaign by the Citizen Organising Foundation, the UK's largest civic alliance.

He said: "Our case for a one-off, selective, earned regularisation for people who have been resident in the UK for six years and who can demonstrate good conduct and an English qualification is primarily about the social and human dividend. But regularisation has other benefits, too. Combined with border enforcement, it helps to shrink illegal immigration. And in the case of Spain in 2005, the measure paid for itself many times over in new social security and tax revenues."

Sir Andrew Green claims that Strangers into Citizens has failed to consider the "hidden costs" in a
regularisation, which would have "massive implications for public finances".

But campaigners say the basis on which his figures are calculated are deeply flawed, and that the evidence in his research is selected to support his position.

"Sir Andrew tries to estimate the cost of a family where the earner stays on a minimum wage his whole life," Dr Ivereigh said. "It assumes people are static, and stay in one place. Nor does he take into account the fact that immigrants are on the whole fit, young, and educated at other countries' expense."

"Study after study showed the immigrants were net contributors", he said, adding: "It is likely that Sir Andrew's pension will be paid for by immigrants".

Dr Ivereigh went on: "The real hidden costs are those of not regularising: not just the costs to the Treasury of uncollected tax revenue, but the day-to-day costs of supporting the destitute and exploited. These are costs are currently borne by our churches and community organisations, which is what gives them the right to call for regularisation on Monday."

Dr Ivereigh also dismissed Sir Andrew's claim that the 2005 Spanish amnesty led to more illegal immigration, pointing to Spanish government figures collected by Strangers into Citizens in a report available on its website:

Dr Ivereigh said: "Sir Andrew claims that the experience of Spain shows 'conclusively' that regularisation encourages more illegal immigration. It's clear why he doesn't offer any evidence for this -- because Spanish immigration figures show the opposite. What the Spanish experience shows is that, combined with border-enforcement measures, regularisation is effective at reducing illegal immigration. If Sir Andrew really wants to curb future illegal immigration he would join the growing ranks of those who back our proposal for a selective, earned amnesty that would allow about 450,000 long-term British residents to become legal."

Strangers into Citizens is a coalition of faith leaders, NGOs, MPs and trade unions who are calling for long-term irregular migrants to be made UK citizens. The LSE estimates there to be 750,000 irregular migrants in the UK, of whom 450,000 would be eligible under the Strangers into Citizens criteria backed by the mayor, Boris Johnson.

The Strangers into Citizens rally following religious services in the nation's mother churches today will be the largest of its kind ever held. Some 20,000 are expected.

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