Illegal Immigrants in the UK: Taking an Alternative View

No Comments » November 18th, 2007 posted by // Categories: General Articles

Illegal Immigrants in the UK: Taking an Alternative View

By Dr Olayiwola Ajileye


In recent times, there has been so much public and policy debates about the issue of illegal immigration and indeed about ‘illegal’ immigrants in the United Kingdom. The fact is that this is an age-long concept and it is not unique to the UK as it has been intensely debated. These are also ‘illegal’ immigrants in other parts of the world, not surprisingly also, in developing economies.


Taking South Africa, Nigeria and Liberia for example, these are resource rich nations and there are immigrants who for one reason or another can be classified as ‘illegal’. Although, there is no open debate and recurrent policy reviews about such categories of people in these nations. There are nationals from the West, South Pacific, India sub-continents, Orientals and Far East who are operating in these countries, albeit, illegally for ‘economic gains’, if the current bribery scandals of large multi-national companies in Nigeria, Wilbros Engineering, Siemens, is to go by. There are businesses operating and complex web of multi-purpose interactions with the resource and economic capita of these countries, Sometimes, with positive agenda and arguably most times with agenda capable of sabotaging the economic aspirations of the ‘host’ countries.


On the other side of the geographic divide, such as the USA, there are similar apparatus in respect of ’illegal’ immigration which, without doubts are no different in structure, concept, content and function. Hence, illegal immigration is a global issue that require a more balance view and approach in other to address and more importantly to harness the cryptic benefits of the situation.


Focusing on the UK

Particularly, in the UK, in view of the current pre-occupation in recent times by the government and also the Shadow, it is important for the benefit of all to look more constructively on the whole idea, advocating for the need to take an alternative view.


It is a common saying by successive governments in the UK, that over the decades, the economy has immensely benefited from the contributions of migrants into the Island, in economic, sport, social and developmental terms. One can only wonder then, when the word ‘illegal’ enter the equation and has taken so much central stage, in such an over-riding manner, that the very category of people classed as migrants and desirable are now subjects of intense scrutiny under the common language on ‘illegal’ migrants.


The word ‘illegal’ as a prefix in the equation of migration now connotes a number of negative interpretations. It elicits a stereotypic view of a class of the society and evokes such sentiments that can only be described as uncomplimentary. Arguably, it appears that the government now feeds, inadvertently into the same sentimental mind frame and consequently complicating the whole issue and stifling the genuine efforts in contributing to the debates with a view to generating sustainable ideas to, harness the positive side of the ‘illegal’ immigration issue.



In real terms, just like you would find ‘natural resource’ and indeed resourceful migrants in the developing economies, majority of the so called ‘illegal’ migrants here have been classed as economic migrants, majority have skills and intellectual capita. Statistics have shown that, this is not far from the truth considering the scale and how much the so called black economy generates in the UK.


Records would show that majority of the ‘illegal’ migrants work in such jobs that the average indigenous people would not be identified with. Some are set up in the informal economy, as well as the formal economy. It is not uncommon to see the ‘illegal’ migrants in various economic activities in the UK generating very important and needed taxes, National Insurance contributions etc.


There are ‘illegal’ immigrants who are real community leaders, small business operators, model examples of entrepreneurships and innovative activities in various communities. Some have business structures which generates corporate taxes, providing ironically, employments for British people. Many agro-based industries clean and safe environments are predicated on the genuine efforts of the ‘illegal’ migrants. Not forgetting that majority of them have children born and raised in the UK, and are playing positive family roles.


There are informal and unrecognised contributions of ‘illegal’ migrants in helping many families, particularly in childcare, thereby freeing up needed times for the ‘legal’ migrants to pursue their economic development goals for the overall benefit of the UK economy.


Illegal Immigrants and Terrorism

With the global concern and real anxieties about terrorist activities and indeed the threat it poses to the safety of all and economic structures of the targets nations, one cannot under-estimate the need for a country like the UK to want to know the identity and background of people they are dealing with, and resident on their soil. Some terrorist organisation may have mixed up with the ‘illegal’ migrants; hence the challenge remains for the authority to be able to decipher the real intentions and goal of every one that remains within its geographic jurisdiction. However, it is not helpful to adopt a SAS-like, Commando-like approach because it has the potential of driving real, genuine and positively intentioned ‘illegal’ immigrants underground which in turn provides the vulnerability for them to be either radicalised or be lured into anti-economic activities on the mere excuse of economic survival.


I do not have a one-size fit all proposals to cater for these obvious challenges but the intention of this write-up is to provide a real alternative perspective view for policy makers. The need to be very consistent and innovate genuine policies to promote productive economic migration activities, not only limited to the highly skilled cadre, but indeed giving recognition to the symbiotic socio-economic efforts of the ‘illegal’ immigrants in the low paid employment and informal sectors as well.


Sometimes, I struggle to see the overall economic advantage of spending billions of funds in holding people in detention centres and repatriating apprehended ‘illegal’ migrants who have no police or CRB evidence of criminal records or evidence to suggest involvement in criminal activities, but who are able to secure against all odds, a low paid employment with evidence of tax and NI contributions.


If we agreed that majority of the ‘illegal’ migrants, albeit, not highly skilled, are economic migrants and are engaged in formal or informal economic activities and are not involved in any criminally suggestible endeavours and have proven records of important ideal positive social roles e.g. in family life etc, then I would argue that the attitude of the system should be less temperamental and rather be tolerant.


Discussions or system can be evolved to maximise that role and foster increased productivity in an atmosphere that is very supportive of such efforts and encourage similar ideals. One is conscious of the indirect perceived message this kind of official stance could send to the world and other prospective ‘illegal’ migrants. Britain would not like to be seen as soft landing. But looking at the aforementioned standards and approach, one can also take a view of how these will impact psychologically in improving the socio-economic advantage and interactions these ‘illegal’ migrants would have with various aspects of British lives.


The medium and long term advantage of this approach is what the authority should seek to study.


However, on the other hand, an ‘illegal’ migrants involved or apprehended in activities inimical to the socio-economic and security aspirations of the UK government and people should be made to face the full consequences of the British law as prescribed in the constitution, such as it has always existed.


This perspective does not represent an exhaustive ideas on the concept of ‘illegal’ immigration, but it is design to align with what we already know and balance the weight of actions in the UK in respect of this concept with a view to providing an exemplary model for the entire world on how best to deal with issues of illegal migration, globally.


Dr Olayiwola Ajileye writes from Birmingham, a graduate of School of Public Policy, University of Birmingham and a practicing Mental Health professional in the United Kingdom







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