Normally l’m knocking Boris on this blog, but I fully back the position he has taken over the issue of irregular migrants in London, as outlined in his interview on the Panorama programme “Immigration – Time for an Amnesty?” broadcast on the 9th of March.

That is, it’s impractical to expel the hundreds of thousands of irregular migrants already here and another solution is required. If they are making a contribution to society, we should regularise their status – as long as they have no criminal record, they have the ability to support themselves and their families, and they have been here for a considerable period of time.

Under instructions from the Mayor, GLA Economics has commissioned a study from the LSE on the economic impact of such an amnesty. It is as yet available only as an interim summary with a draft of the key Chapter 2, “Estimating the Size of the Target Population”, which puts the number of irregular migrants in London at around half a million.

With the Tory party leadership against an amnesty and his media backers like the Evening Standard opposed as well, it may seem surprising that Boris should have taken this stance.

No doubt it is part of his attempt re-brand himself as a friend of minority communities, after all the adverse publicity he faced during the mayoral election campaign last year over his comments about “piccaninnies” and “watermelon smiles”.

It should also be remembered that in deciding to commission a report on the economic impact of regularisation Boris was in large part responding to a motion in favour of an amnesty passed by the progressive alliance between Labour, the Greens and the Lib Dems on the London Assembly last October. The Tory Assembly Members voted against the motion along with the BNP’s Richard Barnbrook.

Nevertheless, credit where it’s due, Boris has taken the right line on this and his support for the principle of regularisation should be welcomed.

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