The mayor of London, Boris Johnson, has backed a plan to give an amnesty to illegal immigrants who have been in the UK for twelve years or more. Mr Johnson was speaking on London news radio station LBC Radio on Tuesday 2nd July 2013 on his new Ask Boris show.
Mr Johnson was asked by co-presenter Nick Ferrari whether he supported an amnesty for all illegal immigrants. He said that, in fact, the UK already has an effective amnesty for people who have been in the country illegally for twelve years. He asked 'why not be honest about it?'
Mr Johnson said that he had made this suggestion before in 2010 and all the major party leaders had 'turned their machine guns on me'. Mr Ferrari asked Mr Johnson whether he would 'reward' people who had broken the UK's immigration law by granting them citizenship.
'Why not be honest about what is going on?' – JohnsonMr Johnson said that he would because this would enable them to come out into the open and work legally and pay taxes. He said that the UK effectively has an amnesty already and asked 'why not be honest about what is going on?... Otherwise…they're not engaged in the economy. They're not being honest with the system. They're not paying their taxes properly and it's completely crazy'.
Mr Johnson added that he believed 'the key thing is to stop [illegal immigrants] from coming in such numbers' and 'to be much tougher in your approach to borders'. He said that 'the human rights culture' made it incredibly difficult to deport illegal immigrants and said that in the last 20 years, the UK had failed to evict anyone due to the power of 'ambulance chasing lawyers'.
Last week, a Conservative MP, Nadhim Zahawi, made a similar call for an amnesty for illegal immigrants. Mr Zahawi, himself a Kurdish immigrant from Iraq, said that, if a Conservative government granted an amnesty to illegal immigrants, it might improve the party's standing among ethnic minority voters.
Mr Zahawi is also the founder of polling company YouGov and said that polls repeatedly show that ethnic minority voters do not support the Conservative Party in large numbers. He said that only 6% of ethnic minority voters consider themselves to be supporters of the Conservative Party compared to 53% who back the left-wing Labour Party.
Ethnic minorities have a deep distrust of the Conservative Party – Nadhim Zahawi MPHe said that polling also shows that ethnic minority voters support many Conservative policies but had a deep distrust of the party. He said that a significant gesture, such as the granting of citizenship to illegal immigrants, might begin to reduce that distrust.
But the UK's Prime Minister, David Cameron, the leader of the Conservative Party, asked about Mr Zahawi's proposal on Friday afternoon said 'It's not [a plan] we're going to implement. It would tend a terrible signal of Britain as a soft touch'.
Mr Johnson, also a Conservative, has therefore put himself on the opposing side of the argument from his leader. Political commentators in the UK press are continually looking for signs that Mr Johnson, one of the most popular elected politicians in the UK, is seeking to challenge Mr Cameron who is the leader of an increasingly unpopular Coalition government.
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