Net migration to the UK hit a record high of 504,000

Net migration to the United Kingdom rose to a record level of more than half a million people in the year to June 2022, according to data published by the Office for National Statistics on Thursday.

The increase in the number of permanent arrivals to the UK was driven by a post-pandemic boom in international studies, as well as an influx of Ukrainian and Afghan refugees and Hong Kong residents. Overseas recruitment by British employers, particularly the NHS, also contributed.

“Brexit has not reduced net migration. . . The end of free movement does not mean that the UK is closed to migrants; just open it in a different way,” said Jonathan Portes, a professor of economics and public policy at King’s College London. However, he added that future flows are unlikely to remain at current levels and that it is too early to say whether overall work-related migration will increase.

The data showed immigration rose to 1.1 million in the 12 months to June, with outflows at 560,000, for a net inflow of 504,000. That’s roughly three times the net immigration figure of the previous year, when the pandemic hampered international travel, and twice the historical average.

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The increase is at odds with the government’s goal of reducing net immigration, which Prime Minister Rishi Sunak reaffirmed earlier this week, rejecting calls from business leaders to ease visa rules.

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Downing Street said on Thursday that Sunak remained “fully committed to reducing the aggregate numbers”, adding that “there are some unprecedented and unique circumstances which have a significant impact on these statistics”. Number 10 added that the Prime Minister “has not set a specific time frame” for reducing immigration.

Jay Lindop, director of the International Migration Center at the ONS, said a series of “unprecedented” world events including the end of the coronavirus lockdowns, the post-Brexit transition, the war in Ukraine and the resettlement of Afghans and British nationals from Hong Kong. all contributed to “record levels of long-term immigration.” That means it’s too early to say whether more immigration will continue, he added.

The ONS said Thursday’s estimates were preliminary and tentative as they were based on new methodology and relied on administrative data collected by various government agencies. However, the figures provide the most complete indication to date of how post-Brexit changes in British migration policy will affect the population.

Greg Thwaites, director of research at the Resolution Foundation, said the data suggested migration patterns had “changed fundamentally after Brexit”, with 51,000 more EU citizens leaving the UK than arriving in the year to June.

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The ONS said that of the 1.1 million people who came to Britain long-term, 704,000 came from outside the EU, an increase of 379,000 on the previous year. The net migration figure of 504,000 compares with official estimates of net migration eventually rising to just over 200,000 per year.

If migration continues at higher levels, increasing the UK workforce, this will have an impact on the economy and public finances. The Office for Budget Responsibility said last week that an update to its forecast for net migration was the only factor to “meritably” increase the UK’s potential growth outlook over the next five years.

But the Home Office and independent experts said the latest figures did not provide reliable guidance on future trends, with immigration expected to slow and emigration to increase over the next few years.

Madeleine Sumption, director of Oxford University’s Migration Observatory, said the unusually high immigration was driven by humanitarian trips, a boom in international studies and high demand for NHS staff, with political decisions over Brexit playing a minor role. .

“We cannot assume that they represent a ‘new normal,’ and it would be rash to make important policy decisions based only on these numbers,” he said.

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The ONS also revised downwards its migration estimates for the previous two years. Net migration for the year to June 2020 now stands at 88,000, rising to 173,000 in the year to June 2021.

According to the ONS, the fastest growth in visas issued last year was for students. Many of them leave the UK at the end of their courses, although the recent relaxation of visa rules may allow more to stay and work after graduation than in previous years.

Programs for Ukrainians, Afghans and Hong Kong residents accounted for 140 thousand of the net migration. However, the data does not include people who arrived via secret routes.

The Ministry of the Interior’s quarterly visa issuance statistics, published separately on Thursday, confirmed the overall picture painted by the ONS data. It also showed that 44,500 people arrived on the Channel by small boat in the year to September 2022, almost half of them in the three months before September.

According to data from the Ministry of the Interior, 72,000 asylum applications were submitted in the year ending in September, which is an 88 percent increase compared to the previous year. However, the number of initial decisions on asylum applications increased by only 11 percent, bringing the backlog of unprocessed applications to 143,000.

Additional reporting by Sebastian Payne

Source: https://www.ft.com/content/e3038487-b2d9-4ac8-a5b4-712f8936ca47