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Tuesday, December 18, 2007.


By Keith Best


Politicians should no longer duck the issue of illegal workers in the UK but have the courage to lead from the front rather than pander to presumed public prejudice


The British Government should not run away from the issue of irregular migrants in the UK but to have the courage to deal with it in the interests of public confidence in the immigration system.


The best estimate is that there are at least half a million illegal workers in the UK, many of whom have become overstayers through inadvertence or wrong advice yet are making a valuable contribution to the economy.


On the National Audit Office’s figures it would take at least £5 billion to remove them and clearly that is not an option as the Government does not have the money. The only sensible solution to prevent these people being exploited but also bringing them within the legitimate economy and paying taxes is through an earned regularisation programme.


At least the Liberal Democrats have now embraced this as policy and should be congratulated. Two thirds of public opinion is behind this idea. The two main political parties, New Labour and the Tories, should be equally robust.


Also, there are at least 300,000 failed asylum seekers who are in legal limbo with no status. They cannot be returned to their country of origin for a variety of different reasons. They should be given a status and allowed to work. A failure to do so is for the Government to be complicit in the creation of an underclass in the UK which will increase tension and inhibit social cohesion – unacceptable in a civilised society.


We know that in a year’s time the Government will introduce its Points Based System for work permit holders and students. There is the power to take away rights of appeal at the same time, yet our organisation, the Immigration Advisory Service (IAS), wins 60-80% of such appeals.


I have urged the Chief Executive of the Border & Immigration Agency to have a transitional period in which a limited right of appeal is allowed where a point of law is certified by an Immigration Judge and will continue until such time as there is an independent assessment that it is safe to remove this independent judicial oversight of entry clearance decisions.


There has to be a massive education programme for entry clearance officers to steer them away from their traditional subjective assessment of the intentions of applicants to the objective system inherent in the Points Based System. We are not convinced that will be successful, and until it is, it would be wrong in principle to remove rights of appeal.


Keith Best is the head of Immigration Advisory Service - a Charity working for the welfare of migrants


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