Page last updated at 16:22 GMT, Wednesday, 9 April 2008 17:22 UK

Mayor rivals want migrant amnesty

(Left to right) Ken Livingstone, Boris Johnson and Brian Paddick
The candidates all back "earned regularisation" in some form

The three leading contenders to be London mayor say they support an amnesty on illegal immigrants who have lived in the UK for four years or more.

Labour's Ken Livingstone, Tory Boris Johnson and Lib Dem Brian Paddick all back the London Citizens panel's idea.

It says long-term illegal immigrants should be able to work for two years, subject to criminal checks, an English test and other requirements.

The mayoral election is on 1 May, with 10 candidates standing.

London Citizens - made up of 2,500 community leaders, faith groups and other organisations - says "earned regularisation" has been a success in the US, Spain and elsewhere and should be implemented in the UK.

'Speak up'

All three of the leading candidates are to pledge their support for the policy at a meeting in central London on Wednesday.

Immigration policy is handled by the Home Office rather than the London mayor.

But Labour and Conservatives have both ruled out an amnesty, according to official party policy, although the Lib Dems have backed earned citizenship for some migrants since last year.

Mr Johnson's spokeswoman told the BBC: "The Mayor of London has a duty to speak up on behalf of London councils about the government's failure to control illegal immigration.

"London currently does not receive anything like enough funding to cope, because the government systematically undercounts."

She added that "where people have been here a long time and have no prospect of being able to be sent back, then an amnesty could be considered so that they can pay taxes and legally contribute to the British economy".

Conservative leader David Cameron has tried to play down a potential rift with Mr Johnson on the issue, by saying the Tory candidate was "his own man" on policy.

'Deeply damaging'

Mr Livingstone, mayor since the job was created in 2000, has told London Citizens: "Migrants contribute hugely to the economic, civic and cultural life of London and the UK.

"To have a substantial number of them living here without regular status - because of deep-rooted failings in the immigration system, some dating back over a decade - is deeply damaging to London as well as to them.

"It is time for a fresh start, with a one-off amnesty for migrants without regular status. We need careful discussion of its detail and, above all, the immigration system that should follow it.

"But on this basis I support the Strangers into Citizens campaign in calling for regularisation."

Mr Paddick said: "It is time to move hard-working immigrants who have been in Britain for more than a decade out of the shadows and into society.

"An earned route to citizenship is a solution to one of the greatest challenges facing this country."

But UK Independence Party mayoral candidate Gerard Batten said an amnesty would be "grossly irresponsible" and "would only be an encouragement for more illegal immigrants to come to the UK".

He added: "We have no clue how many of them are in the country and for these candidates to come out with such a statement when they don't even know the numbers involved is shocking ignorance.

"Illegal immigrants should not be here because most of them have already been through the application system and failed so should be sent home. That's what having a legal system is all about."

The Greater London Authority estimates the number of irregular migrants in London to be about 380,000.

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  Councillors Councils
Party +/- Total +/- Total
CON 257 3155 12 65
LAB -334 2365 -9 18
LD 33 1804 1 12
PC 31 205 -1 0
OTH 10 898 0 0
NOC - - -3 64
159 of 159 councils declared.

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London Mayoral results
Overall results
Name Party Votes
Johnson CON 1,168,738
Livingstone LAB 1,028,966
Paddick LD 878,097
Berry GRN 409,101

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London Assembly Results
Overall results
Party Constit' Top-up Total seats
CON 8 3 11
LAB 6 2 8
LD 0 3 3
GRN 0 2 2
BNP 0 1 1

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