Liberal Democrat home affairs spokesman, Nick Clegg, has taken up the call of human rights organisations for some kind of amnesty for illegal immigrants. Writing in Sunday's Observer, the MP widely expected to succeed Sir Menzies Campbell as party leader proposes an 'earned' amnesty for illegal immigrants who have 'lived in the UK for many years.'
Although Clegg is at least partially right in opposing Government plans to grant residence to tens of thousands of long-term asylum applicants, Shadow home secretary David Davis is even more correct when he says the Lib Dem's alternative ideas are "irresponsible" and "unfair":
"This is irresponsible because on the one hand it will encourage people to come here illegally as well as being unfair to those who have obeyed the law and tried to enter the UK legally. It will act as a green light to a new future wave of illegal immigrants who will be told by their criminal handlers that if they remain in the UK long enough they will be allowed to stay permanently."As I noted back in April, precedents elsewhere in Europe make clear that amnesties do nothing to reduce the problem of illegal immigration and may in fact exacerbate it. Just this week, publication of the annual immigration and quarterly asylum statistics revealed that the Government continues to remove fewer failed asylum seekers than arrive and the number of migrants from accession countries claiming benefit has trebled in the last quarter alone.
We do not need an amnesty to solve this crisis. Neither do we need a common asylum policy to ensure further "harmonisation" across Europe on this issue. What we need is for tighter control of our borders and stricter enforcement of existing legislation, for instance to tackle illegal employment.