London: Thousands of illegal immigrants have won “squatters` rights” to remain in Britain permanently after managing to avoid deportation for 14 years under a little known rule.
According to British Home Office data, 7,245 immigrants have won the right to live here permanently since the introduction of the rule in 2003.
Introduced in 2003, the squatters` right allows illegal immigrants to claim "indefinite leave to remain" if they manage to live in Britain`s black economy for long enough or are failed asylum seekers.
The Telegraph quoted a Home Office spokesman as saying: “Not all applications for indefinite leave to remain through the long residence rule will be granted. They are considered on a case-by-case basis, taking into account the strength of connection to the UK, previous criminal record and compassionate circumstances, and so on.”
If successful, the immigrant will then be allowed full access to the welfare state and be eligible to apply for a British passport.
The Home Office estimated in 2005 that the illegal immigrant population in Britain was between 310,000 and 570,000.
The official added that it was expected that the number of people granted indefinite leave to remain under the rule would fall as asylum claims were dealt with more quickly.
However, Damian Green, the Shadow Immigration Minister, said: "What disturbs me most is how many more people will be able to establish this type of squatters` rights to stay in this country.”
“Rewarding illegal behaviour is always bad, and there ought to be a lot more effort put into stopping people getting to this 14 year level.”