As someone who has been an immigrant in another country I find the suggestion somewhat annoying. Like many young Brits I headed off to the sun and the surf of Australia for a year. It was a fantastic experience to explore that vast country. As such I was a temporary resident of Australia. Now I am someone who tends to follow the rules even if I don’t like them. Yet it was nice to know that I had the legal right to be in that country and travel around it at leisure. I did this in the full knowledge that at some point I would have to leave or find a legal means to extend my stay.

Someone who we met on our travels had several times overstayed his visa in various countries. This was long before the advent of retina and fingerprint scanning. His argument was that you should not be forced to leave a place you are enjoying simply because of some arbitrary date on a piece of paper. As a traveller I think this is a valid point. As human beings we shouldn’t be controlled by faceless bureaucracies that feel nothing for human interaction. He, like me though, is someone who always intends to return to their country of birth. So any overstaying would be a matter of days or weeks and not years. I have seen some truly beautiful places but none that I have wanted to give up old Blighty for yet. But what would I feel if I came from a much poorer place to a country of opportunity?

Australia is noted for having a robust immigration policy. We stayed with people who thought that it wasn’t robust enough and those who thought it should be more liberalised. It was interesting to note that both sides however had faith in the system. Whether they felt it was harsh or not they trusted their government to deliver a viable immigration system. In the UK everyone seems to think the system is flawed and ‘not fit for purpose’, the new buzz phrase which seems to be used to describe all our public services. In many ways we, the people, are unable to give a genuine view on the system because no-one actually has faith in it. This amnesty idea is yet again another example of the malaise in our society, where if things are broken we can’t be bothered to fix it.

Britain is an island. People can only get here by train, plane or boat. We should have one of the best systems in the world, simply because there are a limited number of access points. Unlike much of Europe, people cannot simply walk across the border.
What about the people who have entered the country legally and worked damned hard to pay for the process? Would it not be a kick in the teeth to them?

We should have a system that works and one that rewards people who play by the rules. Otherwise what is the point in having one? Make it simple, make it tough, that should be the decision of the people in a democracy. But firstly we need a system that works, then people can decide how robust it should be.

It is estimated that there are some 550,000 illegal immigrants in this country. A staggering amount considering our size and geography. The incompetence or willful disregard of the law by previous governments is no excuse for just throwing in the towel. These people are not all living on the street so they are taking homes away from families who desperately need them. Many will no doubt be in work. With some 2.5million registered unemployed, clearly some of that number would take those opportunities. And before we get all racist and say that Brits don’t work, many of those legally registered as out of work do want jobs, whatever their background.

An amnesty is not the answer simply because it doesn’t solve the problem of a woeful system and in many ways may only encourage more illegal immigration. If these people have been brought over by gangs then clearly this is also a route for illegal contraband, guns, drugs, etc.

But there is still a little bit in the back of my mind that goes back to me as a traveller. If I ever find a place to live that I love, but where I’m not technically allowed to be, would I do my damndest to stay there or would I let the bureaucrats win? The answer I feel is that I probably would want to stay but don’t feel I have the guile. I would always be looking over my shoulder, waiting for that knock at the door.

I dislike the fact that this amnesty is a political ploy in order to get people to vote for you who normally wouldn’t. In the US it is seen by many Republicans to be a way of garnering the Hispanic vote and in the UK a way for Conservatives to potentially gain more sway within ethnic minorities. This is some way a dubious mindset since it implies that those who are illegally here are of ethnic origin. Whilst in New Zealand I read a report which stated that most overstayers there were actually Brits.
An amnesty would not solve our immigration problems and would be unfair to those who play by the rules. It would however make politicians seem all cuddly. So watch this space.

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