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Boris Johnson Says He’s Open to Amnesty for Some Migrants in U.K. Illegally

In this handout photo provided by 10 Downing Street, Britain's Prime Minister Boris Johnson claps outside 11 Downing Street to salute local heroes during Thursday's nationwide Clap for Carers NHS initiative to applaud workers fighting the coronavirus pandemic, in London, Thursday, April 2, 2020. The new coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms for most people, but for some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness or death. (Pippa Fowles/The new coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms for most people, but for some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness or death.The new coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms for most people, but for some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness or death.(Pippa Fowles/10 Downing Street via AP)

Boris Johnson led Britain out of the European Union on a wave of public anger with high levels of immigration. Now he says he’s open to the idea of an amnesty for migrants who move to the U.K. illegally.

“When people have been here for a very long time and haven’t fallen foul of the law, then it makes sense to try to regularize their status,” Johnson told a news conference Thursday in London. He said this is “pretty much what already happens under the existing rules” but his comment suggests he’s open to going further.

Such a dramatic idea would upend decades of government — and pro-Brexit — rhetoric on one of the most emotive issues ministers face. Yet it’s an idea that Johnson himself has advocated in the past, as someone who’s known to be more liberal than many of his Tory colleagues on immigration.

Addressing reporters gathered primarily to discuss the pandemic, Johnson said he’s in favor of a crackdown on the criminal gangs trafficking vulnerable migrants in small boats across the English Channel to Britain. “People have died trying to make this crossing,” he said.

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