Boris Johnson suggested that illegal immigrants should be “rounded up and sent back” in comments made to the Legatum Institute think tank in 2014, Scram News can reveal.
Johnson’s hardline comments on immigrants, made while he was Mayor of London, stand in stark opposition to the public image he has created before and since – suggesting he’s in favour of an amnesty for illegal immigrants.
Johnson made the comments after giving a speech to the Legatum Institute in September 2014 on “Athenian Civilisation: The Glory That Endures”. In a question and answer session afterwards, he was asked if he would rather “be a metic [a foreign resident with no citizenship rights] in Athens, a freedman [a former slave] in Rome, or an illegal immigrant in Boris’s London?”
“I’m afraid the answer is easy. The joys of living and working in London, even illegally alas, are probably far greater – and your life expectancy is probably triple that of ancient Athens, and double that of ancient Rome. You’re far better off in London, though we discourage illegal immigration, and they jolly well ought to be rounded up and sent back.”Watch his answer yourself
The event was described at the time by the Legatum Institute and the Telegraph as Boris’s “manifesto as a potential Prime Minister,” and an outline of his underlying political philosophy. The Conservatives are yet to release their manifesto for this election.
For nearly two decades, Boris has curated a public persona of being in favour of an amnesty for illegal immigrants. This comment, however, casts significant doubt upon the consistency of his stance, and is more in keeping with the Conservatives’ hardline “hostile environment” policy than the liberal “one nation” Conservative position he has sought to portray.
Boris has set out a pro-amnesty position on multiple occasions.
In 2001, while he was editor of the Spectator, the magazine supported the case of an undocumented Nigerian banker abandoned in the UK as a 16-year-old.
In 2008, as Mayor of London, he called for an “earned amnesty” for illegal immigrants living in London.
Four days before the referendum in 2016, following the scandal over Nigel Farage’s “Breaking Point” poster, he said an amnesty would be “the humane thing to do”.
Earlier this year, after he became Prime Minister, Boris said in the House of Commons that the government would “look at” the policy.
But when the Conservatives promoted their immigration policy as part of the election campaign, Priti Patel, the Home Secretary, made no mention of an amnesty.
Commenting on Johnson’s “round them up” comments from 2014, a Labour spokesperson said: “It was his Conservative Party that sent vans round diverse areas of London, telling migrants to ‘Go Home’.
“Johnson is not fit to be an MP, let alone Prime Minister.”
Johnson’s suggestion that illegal immigrants should be “rounded up and sent back” was made in a very different context to his pro-amnesty public declarations. He was speaking at a relatively small event at the Legatum Institute, a free market think tank which has grown in prominence since the referendum.
OpenDemocracy has described it as “the Brexiteer’s think tank of choice”. Last year, the Guardian reported that the Legatum Institute and three other right-wing think tanks had received financial support from US groups which had raised $5.6 million from anonymous donors since 2008. The Legatum Institute has a “C” rating from WhoFundsYou.
Boris would go on to speak again at the Legatum Institute in March 2015, helping launch a 12-month research project, “A Vision for Capitalism”. The project was led by Tim Montgomerie, then a senior fellow of the institute and Times columnist. Montgomerie is now a special advisor to Boris on social justice. The project was funded by Paul Marshall, a pro-Brexit hedge fund manager and multi-millionaire. Marshall later helped to fund Vote Leave as well as UnHerd, which was edited by Montgomerie.
We contacted the Conservative press office, who said we would have to wait and see whether Boris Johnson’s ’round them up and chuck them out’ policy will make it into the manifesto. We await the manifesto launch with bated breath.