Illegal migrants hope Brexit provides opportunity

Lisa Holland, Senior News Correspondent

Brexit may mean instability for businesses and EU citizens living here but an unlikely group of people are eagerly awaiting Britain's divorce from Europe.

It is estimated that more than a million migrants are living in the UK illegally, according to a former head of Home Office immigration enforcement.

But with an expected decline in workers from Europe, the illegal immigrants we spoke to are hoping it could provide an opportunity for some kind of amnesty.

Selvarasa Sabesan, 31, told me: "We believe that we can come up and get an offer from the Government because the European people will go out when Brexit happens so when they go out, the British Government will need people to do the low paid jobs so we believe that they will offer us some opportunity to become legal."

We met Mr Selvarasa and his friend Balasingam Kumaresan, 33, who work illegally in a takeaway shop preparing food and doing odd jobs.

The owner of the shop risks heavy fines and even jail for giving work to illegal immigrants.

Mr Balasingam said: "We get pocket money - sometimes £15 to £20 for a full day's work - for one day.

"We get two meals a day given by the shop - chicken. But life very difficult."

We gained a rare insight into the lives of illegal immigrants living in the shadows.

Fearful of being arrested and deported, they told us they want to become hard working members of society.

But they dare not risk interaction with their local community for fear of someone becoming suspicious and reporting them to the council or the police.

We followed the men home from the takeaway at the end of their shift, and found they were living in a garage with a group of Tamils from Sri Lanka.

Most of the group sleeping rough here came on fake visas, saying they were fleeing persecution.

Some illegal immigrants are no doubt exploited as cheap labour, while others get work through pity.

In the EU referendum, immigration was one of the key issues, with some voters wanting open borders with Europe to stop.

But the irony is that these immigrants now think Brexit could benefit them.

We also met Ashanthan Thiyagarajah, who sleeps in a stock room at the back of a corner shop.

He, like many illegal immigrants, came on a student visa which has now expired.

He said: "Asians and other non European people will have the job opportunities because of the Brexit and it's good that the referendum came."