THOUSANDS of people last Monday took part in a rally in Trafalgar Square, including trade union and religious leaders, to call for an amnesty for illegal immigrants and the opportunity for them to become regularised citizens. The Strangers into Citizens campaign called for the regularisation of rejected asylum-seekers and those who have over stayed on their visas and who have been resident in Britain for more than four years. The campaign wants them to be given permits to stay and work and the opportunity to work towards full citizenship.
The campaign follows similar events in the European Union and in the United States and highlights the serious exploitation of those who are in Britain illegally – undermining labour protection legislation and the loss of income tax revenue that these people would pay if their situation was regularised.
Dave Prentis, general secretary of the public sector union Unison, said: “These workers already make an enormous contribution to our country, which will grow further when they are allowed to work without fear, pay taxes and make use of the skills and training that they bring from around the world.”
The major trade unions are calling for the promotion of more humane immigration rules, encouraging respect for asylum seekers and migrant workers, tackling racism in the workplace, combating the threats posed by far right groups and developing more cohesive communities.
Many faith leaders were also present to lend their support. The Archbishop of Westminster, Cardinal Murphy-O’Connor, who celebrated the special mass, said he was in “no way” intending to encourage future illegal immigration.
But he said many illegal immigrants had already been in Britain for years and “their rights should be protected”.
He continued: “Many of them are married, settled down and so they live in a kind of shadow land. That’s not right and it’s not fair.”
Addressing the rally, he said: “Our Government and the governments all over the world must treat migrant workers with justice and with dignity.”
Others at Trafalgar Square included the Anglican Bishop of Southwark Dr Tom Butler, Labour deputy leadership contender Jon Cruddas, Jack Dromey from the Transport and General Workers’ Union, and Baroness Shirley Williams.