Amnesty for Undocumented Migrants will have a great impact on a number of fronts. According to surveys, 82% of immigrants who entered the UK legally fell out of status. The survey was based on 22 interviews along with 2 focus groups involving undocumented individuals. It also involved the results from an online survey by legal advisors who work with said individuals. Ultimately, the study showed that the immigration process itself is pushing people out of status, not the other way round.
The total number of undocumented or irregular migrants currently living in the UK is unknown. There have been attempts to estimate the number of irregular migrants in the UK. In 2009, LSE study showed that the irregular population may be as high as 719.000. Of course, there was an acceptance that this estimate contains wide margins of error, which reflect the uncertainty that surrounds it. The same study indicated that the majority of migrants lived in London.
The House of Commons Public Accounts Committee on Immigration Enforcement, in September 2020, concluded that “Despite years of public debate and interest in immigration, the Department still does not know the size of the illegal population or have a clear grasp of the harm the illegal population causes.
The State Of Migrants in the UK
To understand the need for amnesty for undocumented UK migrants, first, we have to understand the state that merits it.
Irrespective of the status, the migrants in the UK are perceived as temporary residents by the government and the locals. Migrants with a lawful basis in the UK, Not only have to re-apply to extend visas (2.5 years in most cases), but it costs thousands of pounds. Migrants on the 10-year route to settlement will have paid £12,937 in application fees by the time they are granted Indefinite Leave to Remain.
For some though, there is an option to apply for a fee waiver, The application process is quite complex and most applicants require legal assistance for a fee waiver.
However, most migrants do not have access to appropriate legal aid unless they are seeking asylum. Most visa holders have to spend 10 years in the UK as temporary residents before they are granted full indefinite leave to remain. What is tragic is that should a migrant slip up once and fail to submit the right application at the opportune time and overstay a visa or has no sufficient funds to make an application, the status will change to undocumented. Causes of undocumented migration in need of regularisation can be many other factors in addition to the ones above.
What is Amnesty
An amnesty is a decision by a government to forgive people who have committed particular illegal acts or crimes, and not to punish them for those. In the context of immigration law, this would mean a decision by the government to regularise individuals in the United Kingdom who have no legal basis to remain in the country, whether overstayed a visa or entered the UK clandestinely. This is an act of kindness that will be a relief for many thousands.
Announcements of Amnesty for Undocumented Migrants
Parliament has debated the issue of granting amnesty to undocumented migrants, the debate took place on 19 July 2021. The petition was signed by 103,441 people. Those who signed called for granting urgent amnesty to Undocumented Migrants living in the UK suffering in silence. Most have no access to adequate Financial support or any help at all. The parliament has previously debated and responded to similar petitions. Normally the government’s response is within the lines of The Immigration Rules which states that the Rules already provided opportunities for undocumented migrants to regularise their status.
The Prime minister has called for an amnesty on numerous occasions starting from when he was Mayor of London, then Foreign Secretary and subsequently as Prime minister. Besides legitimising migrants, the move can help them contribute to the UK economy.
What would be The Benefits of the Amnesty for Undocumented Migrants in the UK
There are arguments on both sides, for and against the amnesty. If there was an Amnesty it would free many of the aforementioned ‘undocumented’ to obtain legal status. Those who have been in the UK for many years will ensure employment and lawful status to reside.
Additionally, amnesty makes sense if we look at it from a humanitarian point of view. It will help migrants integrate and become valuable members of the populace.
Since those opportunities are not available to undocumented migrants, many find themselves jobless, homeless and vulnerable to exploitation. Many irregular migrants remain in hiding in the UK and turn to illegal working to subsist and meet daily needs.
Sadly, many also fall victim to human traffickers and employers who make them work for little pay on the threat of deportation or for ‘promises’ of documentation and safety.
We are yet to see what would the UK government do in regards to the amnesty. There are good reasons for both sides of the argument which is certain.
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