Page last updated at 05:24 GMT, Monday, 4 May 2009 06:24 UK

Should illegal immigrants get an amnesty?

illegal immigrants

A coalition of NGOs, MPs and trade unions is calling for long-term illegal migrants to be given leave to remain in the UK. What do you think about the plans?

London's mayor is among those backing the campaign to give long-term undocumented migrants leave to remain.

The plans could give nearly half a million people the right to stay but to qualify they would need to have been in Britain for at least six years.

However the group Migrationwatch, which monitors the scale of immigration into the UK, says the proposals could cost the country an additional £1m per immigrant across their lifetime. The organisers of the march claim that, in the case of Spain in 2005, the measure paid for itself many times over in new social security and tax revenues.

Thank you very much for your contributions to this debate. It is now closed.

We have experienced technical problems with the usual Have Your Say service. In the meantime we have published your comments and poems below.

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Your comments:

I have been to the Strangers into Citizens event today. I know many Zimbabweans some who have been here over 6 years. They are here because they have had to leave their country for safe sanctuary here. They are the nicest people you could wish to meet, kind, polite and loyal. All this time their lives have been on hold. Let them work, pay tax and be a part of this country.
Sue, Kent, UK

Just come back from the Strangers into Citizens event. It was huge! So moving to hear the stories of people who have lived here for so many years, and just want to get a proper job, pay taxes and become citizens.
Cormac, Bermondsey, London

This is a terrible idea. There should never be any reward for simply managing to evade detection for long enough. No matter how long any illegal immigrant has been here they should be sent home. No exceptions, no excuses. The financial implications are neither here nor there, whether positive or negative.
Ryan Newman, Falkirk, Scotland

Illegal immigration will last as long as there are rich and poor countries in the world. People come because they are desperate. What right do we in rich countries have to deny others a right to the lives we have merely for the crime of being born abroad?
Clara Ackerman, California

It would be too costly to remove all of them. Those who are working can contribute fully pay taxes and not be exploited. If asylum seekers who have been here for years were allowed to work it would give them some dignity. Spain has shown that it does NOT increase the number of people coming in. Let's do the fair and sensible thing. The thousands rallying today in Trafalgar Square show that there is popular support.
Claire Lawrence, London

As a LEGAL immigrant I am only entitle to PAY tax but I cannot get any benefits until I complete 5 years living here. It is not true that the non-documented immigrants do not contribute to the country. I support the amnesty simply because it is just.
Jose Carlos, Dungannon, Northern Ireland

I teach English to Spanish-speaking adults, mostly undocumented Mexican immigrants. I believe they should be granted legal status if they pay a fine, pay their back taxes and learn English. I think many of them would be happy to do whatever is required. They just want to be told what the requirements are.
Paul Kratzer, Los Angeles, USA

No, we should definitely NOT have an amnesty. We already have too many people and too few resources - the NHS can't cope with the existing population. And the 450,000 immigrants presumably come with extended families, so the number will be far, far greater than that suggested by the people pushing for this. This is a crazy suggestion and will sow social discord.
A. Dean, Cheltenham

Help those who help themselves and allow them at least to travel and work: no benefit and handout from taxpayers' money. Most illegal immigrants want to improve their lives and that's why they risked their lives to be here.
Viz, Birmingham

No, they entered the country illegally and to give an amnesty will just further boost Britain's image as a soft touch. We should be looking to completely end illegal migration, but boost legal migration.
Chris, Reading

No. I agree with those who say it would send out the wrong message to others wishing to come here and there is already evidence of that. We should, instead, redouble efforts to remove illegal immigrants and strengthen our borders, rules on visas etc.
Marie, Worcestershire

They are here already and they are working illegally and not pay taxes. The only way to bring out these people will be to welcome them somehow. Remember that even if all the British police are deployed out to catch these people, they will not be able apprehend even half of these people
Ernest, Newcastle

Absolutely not! The only immigrants who should be given leave to remain in this country are those who have followed the correct procedures, however onerous they might be.
Paul, Fife

In the last 20 years the Italians have had 5 amnesties, Spain has had six amnesties. Every time more people came to their country expecting another amnesty to be called.
Steve, London

I believe it's a good step. If you give them legal status then you can boost your economy. A lot of people are working illegally and don't bother to pay tax. If they got legal status they will definitely cooperate in every aspect to improve their status. I personally recommend to give them legal status.
Zulqarnain, London

No they have entered the country illegally they should be returned to their country of origin, get tougher or more will abuse the system
K. Sedgley, York, Yorkshire

This would be a complete disaster. Once legal then their families would be allowed in to settle. The numbers of illegal immigrants are unknown so what would be the numbers of dependants that would be entitled to settle here. It would be a calamity for a country already on the verge of financial collapse and accelerate its demise completely. We should be looking at more effective ways of returning them to their own countries at a time when jobs are scarce.
Sheila, Newcastle

Illegal immigrants should get amnesty provided that they are gainfully employed, are already contributing to society in a meaningful way and have no major convictions. In the US, illegal immigrants often do necessary work, such as harvesting vegetables, which regular citizens are unwilling to do, even with unemployment rates so high.
Brendan Bailey, San Francisco, CA, USA

The main problem with immigration amnesty is that the event becomes a massive advert to the rest of the world, confirming that Britain's immigration control is a failure. The consequence of this failure is that it encourages more illegal immigration and the normal channels of controlled immigration is then reduced to compensate it.
Lloyd Belle, Nottingham, UK

If, as many of us believe, the problem is with the resources this country has available, then an amnesty might very well ease the lives of those living here illegally, but it would impose a greater burden on a system.
Derek, Bromley, UK

We need to stay strong on this one. There are several billion people who would come to Britain if we let them it is as simple as that. Any sign of weakness will be seen as an open invitation.
Dave, Southampton

Immigrants don't help our economy they are coming here to take money they earn or through benefits out of the country to send it to their families in other countries. They are draining the economy by putting very little or nothing back in.
Yorkshire Lass, North Yorkshire

These proposals have many implications. They effectively give the green light to anyone who can't come here legally to enter our country illegally and attempt to stay until they qualify for amnesty.
Suzanne Owen, Dundee

They should not be given leave to remain. And if the authorities know where they are to allow them to be grantd such leave, why aren't they being rounding up and deported.
K Monaghan, Surrey

It really depends on how incorporated into society they are. Turning them into citizens will allow them to contribute via taxes and so on, and will lift them out of exploitation. However as they are here illegally, and have ignored proper channels they may well be a burden.
David James, Leicester

Amnesty is the most decent, obvious and humane thing to do as it will help to boost the UK economy. It will also increase revenue and diversity will thrive.
David, Kent

We ask people to respect our laws then when we get a difficult problem like the illegals, we dodge the problem by ignoring the laws and allowing illegals to stay. This then sends the message to other illegals to come and hide instead of going through channels so compounding the problem in the future.
Richard, Leeds W Yorks

As someone who's about to marry an American I can fully understand why people might try to come here illegally. The 'proper channels' are intrusive, subject to the prejudices of immigration officers, and so expensive that they basically commit you to poverty for the crime of wanting to be together in the same country. On the other hand, it is illegals who have fuelled most of the xenophobic sentiment in the UK, which hurts all incomers legal or otherwise. I think an amnesty would send the wrong message, though maybe people who've lived here for years, are settled and have contributed should be assessed on a case-by-case basis.
Rich Edwards, Leeds, UK

Risky idea. We're already over stretched as it is particularly with the current economic climate.
Paul Richard, Southampton

This is ridiculous. Illegal means illegal and they should be deported immediately. We don't have room nor the jobs to take on even more migrants.
Eutopia, Yorkshire, UK

Absolutely not. If these people had anything to offer this country, they could have come here legally. It is laughable to say that they will make a contribution to society. They will just claim benefits like most of the others. And an amnesty will only encourage more to try their luck.
Jason Slack, Doncaster, England

No way. There has been enough rewarding people for breaking the law. However, if there is proof that they have worked and contributed to society we could make exceptions.
Gary, Torbay

Illegal immigrants aren't a drain on the welfare state, since they don't actually receive welfare. I'm not sure about whether to send them back or not.
Ross, Lancaster, UK

Absolutely no. Allowing illegal immigrants to stay will only encourage the millions more who want to come to do so.
Keith, Welshpool, UK

As a Brit who had immigration difficulties in NZ, I can say it is truly miserable knowing that despite working hard and earning your way, you might have to leave home, family, work and friends because of red tape. Besides, some of them don't have a choice, let them stay - legally.
Sandra, Gloucester, UK

I think an amnesty is not a good idea because already many people are unemployed and we can't afford to give future jobs to illegal immigrants. These jobs should be offered to British citizens.
Ehsan, Leeds, UK

Amnesties in the US led to a massive increase in illegal migration. Deport them and fine them as they go for entering the UK illegally.
Robin, Hay on Wye, Wales

Definitely not. How can they possibly say this when on the other hand they will not allow the Gurkas to have the right to live in the UK, they who have shown nothing but loyalty to our sovereign. Can people honestly say that illegal immigrants have the same loyalty.
Meg, Merthyr, Tydfil, Wales

Illegal immigrants should be returned to their country of origin, regardless of how long they have lived here. They are, by and large, a drain on this country's welfare state.
Milvusvestal, Ramsey, England

Britain is already seen as a soft touch, which is why these people risk their lives to get there. Start legalising immigrants and you send the wrong message to the world, which can only result in even more illegals.
Neville Collins, Paris, France

If illegal immigrants are given amnesty to stay in the UK it will open the flood gates. The UK is already one of the softest options for economic migrants. Countries like Canada, USA and Australia have the largest land masses, yet have the most robust immigration policies. By comparison, the UK is over-crowded and land locked.
Smell the coffee, Dorset

Absolutely not. My partner and I have recently spent over £1700 doing things the correct and legal way with the Tier 1 visa highly skilled worker visa costing £750.00 per application, and now despite her right to stay we now have to pay a further £300 for "permission" to get married. We are not allowed to claim benefits despite her paying tax and NI here for the last three years.
Paul, Newcastle, UK

There should not be an amnesty allowing people to remain here. The amnesty should be a deadline to leave by and still be permitted to apply for legal re-admission. Anyone found here illegally after the 'amnesty date' is deported with no right to return, ever, even as a tourist. That is the only type of amnesty which should be allowed. Law-breaking must never be rewarded.
Karen Wood, Lincolnshire

They came here illegally, they know full well they are breaking the law by being here. If we give them legal status, we'll be sending out the wrong message.
Neil, London

These proposals are just the sort of thing that has got us in the mess we are in today. Illegal means illegal. Many are working for cash and contribute nothing towards the society.

Adrian, Bristol

This humane proposal makes perfect sense. It allows people to move from the black economy into the mainstream, where they can pay tax and insurance and make a real contribution. But why six years? lower the bar.
Kathryn Rimmington, Portsmouth

No, because it would make a mockery of all those migrants who have worked hard to complete the legal requirements for entry to our country.
Deni Denison, Aylesbury

Yes, let them stay as long as they are working paying taxes like the rest of us.
John, East Sussex

No. The 'One-off amnesties' have a habit of becoming precedence. British people proved their general sense of fairness with their attitude towards the Gurkhas. The Human Rights Act is the millstone round our necks preventing repatriation for illegal economic migrants manipulating the system.
Craig, Camden, London

Illegal immigrants are illegal and should be booted out. These people have done nothing for this country, unlike the Ghurkas. We support enough scroungers as it is who are costing this country millions every year.
Tony Horler, Edinburgh

Legalising Illegal immigrants will add to our already crippling tax burden. Our overpopulated island needs to deport these illegal residents and stop any legal immigration in an attempt to bring our population under control.
Mick, Leicester

In the UK with unemployment rising, it's not a good idea to add extra immigrants to the numbers. These illegals are hidden in the economy, and therefore do not use our social structures for fear of being caught. Legalising them will instantly add pressure and costs to an already creaking social structure under great economic strain.
Iain, Doncaster, UK

I think its a great idea. My partner has been here for eight years, and its really painful to think he may be sent back home at any time. Meanwhile, our lives are at a stand still while we wait for the home office to make a decision on his future.
Rosemarie Herft, London

Absolutely not. Illegal means no right to be here. Those here should be deported. Any new arrivals should be detained and promptly deported. An amnesty sends the wrong signal.
Brian W, Chelmsford, UK

If someone is an illegal immigrant, how exactly do we know they've been here for 6 years? Also isn't unfair on all the immigrants who have done things properly, paying money for visas etc? Never mind, just hop over in a lorry and you'll get citizenship in a few years anyway.
Stephen, Lewisham

No. Why should they, for that matter extend this amnesty to anyone living legally in the UK. I am a German citizen living in England for 13 years. I got my citizenship through the correct channels. Give free citizenship to legal tax paying immigrants.
Clint, Guildford, UK

Of course they need to have the right to stay. They are already here so why make them suffer more. They deserve their freedom.
Val, London, UK

Absolutely no. Any irrational amnesty will make our small island a magnet for all illegal asylums across the Europe. Also it will give momentum to human smugglers, who are already getting ready to bring more to the UK. The so called amnesty will push thousands of asylum to the housing and benefit queue and will bring about social unrest in the future.
David Ali, London

Illegal means that they are here in defiance of our laws. Tell the world that our laws are there merely to be broken is a certain way to encourage millions more foreigners to crowd in on us.
Jack Belfitt, Solihull

Under no circumstances should an amnesty be granted. All it will do is to send a signal to those who want to live here that all they need to do is to get here and keep there heads down for long enough then everything will be all right.
Ian, Wakefield

We have to give citizenship rights to illegal immigrants who have been here for over a decade. However, before legalising immigrants we need to upgrade our border controls. We also probably need to look at Human Rights legislation.
Paul, Scotland

No. Britain is full. We should stop immigration and repatriate all foreign national who have overstayed their welcome.
David, Cornwall, UK

Legalising the illegal just because a situation is out of control and expensive to manage is never the answer. The people calling for this amnesty should be held to account for any future crimes committed by the illegal immigrants and maybe that would make them more socially aware in the future.
Colin Hall, Norwich, UK

There have been amnesties before, so it's not a new idea. It regularises life for those affected and leaves our police and border guard free to pursue dangerous criminals. There's free movement of EU citizens already, so the 'crowded Island' argument is spurious.
Iain, Stirling, Scotland

Yes, of course they can stay, but only after every one of the Gurkhas who fought for us are given permission to stay first.
Colin, Plymouth, UK

I believe an amnesty will reduce the costs of bothering about illegal immigrants because they will contribute to the economy. Remember that immigration borders are just the outcome of man's selfishness in a free world.
Michael Nana, London

A blanket amnesty would be unacceptable and would most likely be used as a back door for terrorists. Its far better to process the enormous current waiting list of applicants, then afterwards consider those that are here illegally to be processed on a case by case basis. But let's not lose compassion. On the one hand, illegals don't pay income tax or NI, on the other they support themselves and don't claim any state benefit.
DZ, Howesmere, UK

It will boost the economy and also be good for people that have been living here for 10 years and haven't got any answer from the home office.
G.Cani, Walthamstow, London

The illegal migrants can't be criminals to stay, but as they are illegal, they have already broken our laws and so not trustworthy.
Jeff, London

No an amnesty is not a good idea as all this does will encourage more to come to this over crowded island. Spain tried it and that did not help reduce illegal immigration. All it does is reset the counter. Moreover, this will allow one million more people to claim benefits, social housing and NHS, which is already over stretched due to massive number of immigrants on low incomes using these services.
Glenn Jones, oxford

There is no question that illegal immigrants should get an amnesty. Of all the immigrants in this country they are the ones who have shown the most determination and enterprise to get here. They are the kind of immigrants we need because they are the ones who have most to offer.
L A Odicean, Sidcup

I think it's great news. Illegal migrants boost the economy as they will be paying their contribution - social security & tax revenues. Besides lots of Britons are immigrating to other countries so it's just normal that the UK allow immigrants to come here. Otherwise in few years the country will suffer from lack of workers, which will lead to an economy disaster.
Saadia Goddard, Middlesex, England

The idea that they will boost the economy is nonsense. If they are happy enough to hide from the border patrols, who seriously thinks they won't hide from the taxman? So the effect on the economy will remain unchanged.
Jim Murphy, Verwood, Dorset, UK

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