[URBANTH-L]NEWS: Migration: Illegal but integral to [UK] Economy

Angela Jancius acjancius at ysu.edu
Mon Jan 16 15:48:20 EST 2006

January 16, 2006
International Press Service News Agency

MIGRATION: Illegal But Integral to Economy
Sanjay Suri

LONDON, Jan 16 (IPS) - British economy and its public services will collapse
without immigrants who have entered the country illegally, leading experts

''The National Health Service will close tomorrow, you will not be able to
get healthcare, many schools likewise, you wouldn't be able to move from
point A to point B in mini-cab because of transportation, you wouldn't get
offices cleaned because a lot of the cleaning is carried out by people from
Africa, Latin America and so on,'' Chukwu-Emeka Chikezie, executive director
of the African Foundation for Development told IPS.

''So you wouldn't get a huge number of goods and services,'' he said.
''Basically London would stop.''

The government knows this, he said. ''Fundamentally policy makers know that
their economies are dependent on migrants with an irregular status. But of
course it is politically sensitive.''

But governments are misleading people by not acknowledging the contribution
of illegal migrants, Chikezie said. ''Businesses rely very much on this
labour, so there's an uncomfortable grey area that they occupy, and don't
really tell their populations just how important this irregular labour is to
the economy, to the way of life that they've become used to.''

Illegal immigrants - or people with irregular status as many now like to
call them - are not sponging off the state but contributing to it, says
Khalid Koser, senior policy analyst, Global Commission on International

''There's a misconception that people come here and they live off the
welfare state and they are taking jobs,'' Koser told IPS. ''That's clearly
not true. I think most of the people are here because they want to work,
they want to further their lives, and they are doing essential jobs.
Returning them I think would bring a real gap in the labour market.''

The government view on illegal migrants was ''hypocritical'', he said. ''On
the one hand the government says these are irregular people and wants to
send them back. On the other hand the government knows full well that we
need these people.''

>From the British economic point perspective, ''we can't send them back,'' he
said. ''For one it's hard to do, we don't know who they are, where they are,
it's difficult to send them back. Second, we don't need to send them back,
we need them, we need their work. We know these people are here, so why not
let them work in a regular manner. It seems to me quite scandalous that we

The British government is considering an identity card scheme in order to
check illegal immigration. But few independent experts believe that such a
scheme can succeed.

''I've done some work on human smuggling and trafficking from Pakistan, and
it seems to me that people are fairly resourceful,'' Koser said. ''If they
do introduce I-cards, I suspect that in Karachi they will pretty soon make
pretty good forgeries of I-cards.''

The government needs to acknowledge that it cannot simply send illegal
immigrants back, Sarah Spencer, Director of Policy Research at the
University of Oxford told IPS.

''It's not realistic simply to round everyone up and send them home, we do
need to think of some ways of regularising some of the people here whose
status is irregular,'' she said.

Most illegal immigrants now do not land after a dangerous boat ride, she
said. ''The likelihood is not that it's so much people who came in a boat in
the night but people who came in perfectly legally to work, to come to a
wedding, to study, and who've simply overstayed their visas because it's
relatively easy to move into the labour market.''

The numbers of such illegal immigrants runs into many thousands every year.
''Numbers on illegal migration are so hazy that making an estimate is a
dangerous thing to do because you know that the media in UK picks up on any
estimates made and uses them as a sort of evidential basis,'' Koser said.

''Some people suggest that there may be 100,000 people entering the UK every
year in an irregular fashion, but that's probably the high end of the
estimate,'' he said. (END/2006)

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