19 April 2007

"Model Immigrant" To Stay

Mohammed Samad reunited with his wife and son [Credit: The Argus]Tonight's local news celebrated the release of 23-year-old Mohammed Samad, who had been awaiting deportation since being detained without warning during a regular visit to immigration officials in Croydon last Tuesday.

Mr Samad fled Sri Lanka after being badly beaten by Tamil Tiger rebels in 1999 but had failed to gain asylum status as it was deemed safe for him to return. Despite not being authorised to stay in the UK, he had secured long-term employment as a groundsman at Hurstpierpoint College, got married, and now has a two-year-old son here.

However, human rights organisations had championed Mr Samad's cause, calling for a full amnesty for asylum seekers who have been resident here for seven years and a partial amnesty for those here more than two years.

And yet, however much one might sympathise with the plight that Mr Samad's wife would have faced, one can but wonder what signal this latest Home Office decision will send to other illegal immigrants – both those already resident and those still hopeful of finding a way in.

As I wrote in the Telegraph last summer, over the past 20 years, there have been five amnesties for illegal immigrants in Italy and six in Spain. In both cases, the most recent amnesties resulted in 700,000 applicants – more than double those seen in their previous ones, which, in turn, saw more applicants than in any of their earlier amnesties. Amnesties plainly do nothing to reduce the problem of illegal immigration and may in fact exacerbate it.

Before our compassion moves us to introduce any such amnesty in the UK, the Government must make clear both why an amnesty here would be any more successful and what effective measures, not already being taken, they would take in order to crack down on Britain's shadow economy.