June 16, 2009 / 7:24 PM / 11 years ago

Migrant amnesty could boost economy - study

LONDON (Reuters) - Legalising illegal immigrants could boost Britain’s output by 3 billion pounds a year, a report showed Tuesday, but the public will need convincing as the recession bites and jobs are in short supply. London Mayor Boris Johnson, who commissioned the London School of Economics (LSE) study, has used the findings to support his argument for legalising a large portion of the estimated 618,000 illegal immigrants in the country.

“Far from a financial burden, as some suggest, this new research has found an amnesty could be worth up to 3 billion pounds a year to the country’s economy,” Johnson said in a statement.

Some have praised the possibility of an immigrant amnesty as a leap forward for social cohesion whereas others have lambasted Johnson for what they said would be a flood of migrants wanting to take advantage.

“It seems that Boris Johnson is trying to buy the immigrant vote with taxpayers’ money,” Migrationwatch, a group which monitors migration flows, said in a statement.

“Obviously, those granted an amnesty would be replaced (by new illegal immigrants) at the drop of a hat.”

Long-term costs, once newly legal immigrants gained access to housing, would reach 1 billion pounds a year compared to 840 million pounds a year in tax revenue increases, the study showed.

Ian Gordon, co-author of the report, said the welfare of the migrants should be taken into account as the extra social security costs and tax inflows were quite similar.

“I’m sure that the climate is not very receptive at the moment to giving more rights to migrants ... but I hope that (this report) will show that there is a real potential here amongst this population to contribute to national prosperity,” Gordon, a professor at LSE, said.

Highly skilled immigrants often work in low skilled jobs, which could lead to much greater productivity for businesses if their skills were better utilised, Professor Jonathan Wadsworth of the LSE, said.

“It has the potential to make the recession less severe than it may otherwise be simply because employers have more choice about how they work,” he said.

Don Flynn, director of the Migrants’ Rights Network, said immigrant policy depended on how willing the government was to take on an unpopular case.

“We live in ... states where health facilities (and) our labour market are considered to be for nationals. Foreigners are quite a long way down the order,” he said.

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