Saner voices have emerged in the ruling conservative party to give illegal immigrants a one-off amnesty allowing them to remain in Britain.
The move would improve the relations between conservatives and ethnic minorities and win over their support for the Tories in the upcoming general elections.
Conservative party Member of Parliament (MP) Nadhim Zahawi has taken up the lead by putting forward the idea which he insists could boost the economy and help repair the Tories’ tarnished reputation among minority voters.
Nadim Zahawi, who is himself born to Kurdish parents in Iraq and his family fled Iraq to the UK during Saddam regime, said, “We shouldn’t be afraid to think outside of our comfort zone.”
At the last election, the Tories picked up just 16 percent of the black and Asian vote, while more than two-thirds supported Labour. “Our failure to appeal to ethnic minorities should send loud alarm bells ringing in Downing Street and Central Office,” Zahawi said. “Unless we act now this electoral penalty will only get worse.”
Analysts told Pakistan Today that the Nadhim Zahawi’s provocative call will put him at odds with the party’s leadership, which strongly opposes the move, although it has been advocated by the London Mayor, Boris Johnson. Opponents argue that offering an amnesty would make Britain a magnet for immigrants.
Mayor of London Boris Johnson while supporting Nadhim’s idea argued that it would be better for those people to be engaged in society and pay taxes.
“We should have an amnesty,” he said. “We’ve got people who’ve got in here illegally. They are not engaged with the economy and being honest with the system. The key thing is to stop them coming in such numbers and be tougher in our approach to borders.” However, he also criticised the government’s failure to deport illegal immigrants when they first arrive over the last 20 years.
Boris Johnson who is seen by many as an expected successor of David Cameron for the leadership of Conservation party first argued for an amnesty in 2008, but has not repeated the politically controversial claim in a while.
However, his position is slightly different to Zahawi as he suggested all those who have been resident for more than 12 years should be allowed to stay.
The proposed amnesty would affect around 570,000 illegal immigrants and Zahawai said recipients should be given leave to remain rather than full citizenship, limiting their entitlement to benefits, and the move should be combined with an overhaul of border controls.
He said, “It’s only because we’ve been so robust on immigration in government we’re able to have this conversation with the electorate. We’ve earned the credibility to think outside the box.”
British MP Nadhim Zahawi, who co-founded the UK based market research company YouGov, said he had commissioned polling which found ethnic-minority voters backed Tory policies on major policies such as benefits, taxation and reducing non-European immigration. But when respondents were asked which party was most in touch with their needs, just six percent named the Conservatives, compared with 53 percent who cited Labour.
The campaign for an amnesty was led in the last parliament by Citizens UK, the largest alliance of community groups in Britain.