Wednesday, 17 June 2009

The amnesty report gets typical tabloid treatment

The LSE/Mayor of London report on the costs/benefits of an amnesty for illegal immigrants has been published and has finally got some press coverage in the tabloids.

£7bn bill to let in 860,000 migrants, says the Star. Amnesty for migrants to cost us £6bn, claims the Star's sister paper the Express (where did that billion go?). Senior Tories rubbish Boris Johnson's proposal to allow illegal immigrants to work in UK write James Slack and Matthew Hickley in the Mail.

All three stories are stuffed full of quotes from Migrationwatch - the Express quoting Andrew Green more than the report or Boris Johnson.

The Star's headline uses the 860,000 figure, as does the Express, which is in fact the highest estimate of numbers. The report (p.13) says the total could be as low as 417,000, but they use a mid-range figure of 618,000. The Mail uses the this latter figure - none of them use the lower end estimate.

But in the conclusions to the report, it makes clear only 67% may be eligible for regularisation - around 412,000. None of these rags discuss such trivial matters as to what the actual proposals for who qualifies for regularisation might be.

The LSE say all this could add up to £3 billion a year to GDP per annum (a figure the Star 'forgets' to mention), and the regularised might add up to £846 million per annum in tax revenue.

The report admits that there might be a £300 million one-off administrative cost (although the Express credits this to Migrationwatch), and an increase in public service costs of £410 million. This might climb to £1 billion to take into account 'potentially available welfare costs'. But as the report states on page 106:

the fact that the weight of evidence suggests irregular migrants are probably already able to access many public services implies the additional costs of regularisation will be limited.

Only the Mail decides to mention that 'The National Audit Office has estimated that deporting all illegal immigrants from Britain would cost up to £4.7billion', a figure which should put the estimated 'costs' into perspective.

Both the Star and Express, in their outrage at the costs, point to a figure in the executive summary that housing costs alone will be £6 billion. It is worth nothing the whole of what the report says on this however:

Impacts on the housing market are likely to be limited. Irregular migrants are currently mainly accommodated in the private rented sector or living with family and friends. Except to the extent that their incomes increase, there will be very little additional demand. In the short run at least, very few additional households would be eligible for either benefits or social housing.

In the longer term however there would be an impact on the demand for social housing. In London for instance there might be 128,000 households regularised. Earlier evidence suggested that perhaps 40 per cent of those from similar backgrounds have over time been able to access social housing. This would imply adding 52,000 units to the stock at a public sector cost of perhaps £4.4 billion over a long period. Across the UK the figures might be as many as 72,000 units required at an estimated cost of £6.2 billion. However the much more likely outcome is simply that there would be longer waiting lists both in London and across the country as a whole.

In other words, that £6.2 billion figure is really a top-end estimate that is very unlikely to come to pass.

But never mind any of that - Migrationwatch has spoken and they must be obeyed. So they quote him Andrew Green saying the proposals would be an 'absurd waste of taxpayers’ money' (Star) and claiming 'benefit payments [would be] likely to hit £10million a week' (Express) - figures from their absurd amnesty briefing paper which claims the regularised will be on housing benefit their whole life.

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