Conservative MP calls for UK immigration amnesty for illegal immigrants

An MP says that a future Conservative government of the UK should offer an amnesty to the estimated 570,000 illegal immigrants in the country and grant them all indefinite leave to remain. Nadhim Zahawi, himself an immigrant, says that this move would be likely to gain the Conservative party votes among ethnic minority voters.

Mr Zahawi, who came to the UK from Iraq as a child, raised the idea of an amnesty in an essay he wrote for a right wing think tank. In it, he said that the Conservatives would have to be brave and 'think outside the box' in order to attract more support among minority communities.

He says that the amnesty would be likely to increase support for the Conservatives and would also have economic benefits for the UK. On 28th June 2013, Mr Zahawi told Victoria Derbyshire on BBC Radio 5 Live's morning show that the current situation 'cheats the Treasury out of billions'.

Granting citizenship would allow illegal immigrants to pay taxes

He said that UK immigration authorities had such long backlogs that illegal immigrants had an effective amnesty already and he wanted to 'bring them [illegal immigrants] into the legal side where they can pay taxes'. A recent report on the UK's immigration authorities found that there was a 320,000 backlog of asylum cases that might take 24 years to clear.

The Conservatives are not currently popular among ethnic minority voters, as Mr Zahawi would know; in 2000 he co-founded the internet polling company YouGov which carries out a great deal of political research. He told the BBC that only 6% of ethnic minority voters support the Conservatives whereas 53% support the opposition Labour Party.

Mr Zahawi told Victoria Derbyshire that polling showed that people from ethnic minorities supported many Conservative policies but that this had not led to an increase in support for the party. Mr Zahawi told The Independent newspaper, 'the problem isn't primarily Conservative policies, it's far deeper than that; a gut feeling which says 'these people aren't on my side''.

Lack of immigrant support may have cost Conservatives the election

This may be one reason why the Conservatives are currently in government as the senior partner in a Coalition government rather than governing alone. Even though the last election was held in 2010, at the height of a recession which many voters blamed on the previous Labour government, the Conservatives did not win an outright majority.

They had, instead, to form a coalition with the centrist Liberal Democrat Party in order to establish a parliamentary majority. Ethnic minority voters now make up a growing proportion of the UK electorate, particularly in London and other British cities.

In 2012, the leader of the Conservatives, UK Prime Minister David Cameron instructed his party to try to build support among ethnic minorities but it seems that the idea of an amnesty is a step too far for Mr Cameron. The Conservative Party leadership has ruled out any amnesty.

Putting black and Asian candidates on the 'A-list' is not enough

Mr Cameron has called for more black and Asian candidates to be put on the Conservatives' 'A-list'. A-list candidates are given priority in standing for safe Conservative seats. Mr Zahawi wrote 'the A-list and photo-ops of cabinet ministers at their local temple or mosque are not enough. If we want to recreate the triumphs of the 1980s, we must be Thatcher-like in our willingness to think brave and think big'.

Mr Zahawi came to the UK as a child with his parents who were Kurds from Baghdad, Iraq. He was educated in south London and has been politically active since the 1980s.

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