Net migration hits record high, official statistics show

Rishi Sunak faces a political storm today after net immigration to Britain rose to a record high of 504,000 by June.

The extraordinary number – roughly equivalent to the population of Liverpool – is almost three times the previous 12 months.

Officials pointed out that the surge comes as hundreds of thousands of refugees from Afghanistan, Hong Kong and Ukraine win the right to live in the UK – alongside the end of Covid travel restrictions and a surge in student numbers.

They also stressed that the numbers are not directly comparable to previous years because the methodology has changed dramatically.

The numbers will alarm the government, however, as levels appear to be well above pre-Brexit referendum highs. Migration from the EU was even negative during the year, offsetting arrivals from the rest of the world.

Home Secretary Suella Braverman has signaled her ambition to meet the long-standing Tory target of reducing annual net migration to “tens of thousands”.

Downing Street said Rishi Sunak wanted to reduce overall net migration but cited “unique and unprecedented circumstances”.

Instead, he has focused on illegal immigration and the migrant crisis in the Channel, noting that legal avenues could be opened up to address skill shortages.

Asylum applications are not included in the migration statistics.

Separate Home Office data released today shows that in the year to September 2022 there were 72,027 asylum applications, double the number in 2019 and a high since 2003.

The number is far higher than during the European migrant crisis, which rose to 36,546 by the end of June 2016.

The historical figures mean that the UK is experiencing record immigration coupled with labor shortages as job vacancies outpace job seekers and real wages fall.

According to the ONS, long-term net migration is the highest since it began collecting numbers in 1964.

The number of people classified as not gainfully employed – also due to illness – has reached new highs in the wake of the pandemic.

Officials said the surge comes as hundreds of thousands of refugees from Afghanistan, Hong Kong and Ukraine win the right to live in Britain

Home Secretary Suella Braverman has signaled her ambition to meet the long-standing Tory target of reducing annual net migration to

Home Secretary Suella Braverman has signaled her ambition to meet the long-standing Tory target of reducing annual net migration to “tens of thousands”.

A total of 1.1 million people are expected to have immigrated to the UK by June, the majority – 704,000 – from outside the EU.

By contrast, an estimated 560,000 people emigrated from the UK over the same period, of which almost half – 275,000 – went back to the EU.

The imbalance means that during those 12 months far more non-EU nationals are likely to have arrived in the UK than left, while for EU nationals the opposite is the case, with more departures than arrivals.

The long-term net immigration figure of 504,000 for the year to June compares to the estimate of 173,000 for the 12 months to June 2021.

The Office of National Statistics explained the dramatic increase in net migration, saying it was due to a number of “unique” factors.

In addition to 267,000 visas for people from Ukraine, Afghanistan and Hong Kong, the number of students from outside the EU has also risen sharply.

The data shows that 476,389 sponsored student visas were issued in the year ended September, a 77 percent increase compared to 2019 during the pandemic.

A total of 127,731 of those visas went to Indians – meaning they have overtaken China to become the most common nationality for students in the UK.

The number of people applying for asylum in the UK up to June was 72,027, around the same level as the last peak twenty years ago.

The Prime Minister’s official spokesman said “unprecedented and unique circumstances” caused the spike.

He said Home Office statistics show Britain has helped evacuate more than 144,000 people from Hong Kong, 144,600 from Ukraine and 22,000 from Afghanistan.

“The Prime Minister is determined to bring the total down,” the spokesman said.

“There are some unprecedented and unique circumstances that are having a significant impact on these statistics.

“The PM has said he wants net migration to be reduced, he hasn’t set a specific timeframe for that.”

Ministers have been under intense pressure to get a grip on Britain’s borders after the Conservative Party pledged to reduce net migration in the 2019 election manifesto.

Ms Braverman yesterday said “we have lost control of our borders” as she blamed the English Channel migration crisis on economic migrants “who exploit the generosity of the British people”.

The ONS described the period covered by the latest figures as “unique”.

As there are a number of reasons for the rise, many of which are unrelated, it is too early to say whether the trend will continue.

Jay Lindop, ONS Deputy Director at the Center for International Migration, said: “In the 12 months to June 2022, a number of global events have impacted international migration patterns. Taken together, these were unprecedented.

“These include the end of lockdown restrictions in the UK, the first full post-EU transition period, the war in Ukraine, the resettlement of Afghans and the new visa route for British nationals from Hong Kong, all of which have contributed to the record levels of long-term immigration that we have seen.

“Migration from non-EU countries, particularly students, is driving this increase. With travel restrictions lifted in 2021, more students came to the UK after studying remotely during the Covid-19 pandemic.

“However, there has also been a sharp increase in the number of people migrating for a variety of other reasons. This includes people arriving for humanitarian protection, for example from Ukraine, as well as for family reasons.

“Given the many unrelated factors currently contributing to migration, it’s too early to say if this picture will hold.”

Madeleine Sumption, Director of the Migration Observatory at Oxford University, said: “All projections indicated that migration would decline as a result of the post-Brexit immigration program which severely limited opportunities for EU citizens to move to the UK. In fact, the EU migration balance remains negative.

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ONS figures showed immigration surpassed one million in the year to June, with a major factor being visas for

ONS figures showed immigration surpassed one million in the year to June, with a major factor being visas for “other” routes such as those fleeing Ukraine, Afghanistan and Hong Kong

“But non-EU migration has increased, not primarily because of policies designed to replace EU free movement. Humanitarian routes to Ukraine and Hong Kong and a surge in international students have played the biggest roles in boosting immigration numbers.

“This unusually high level of net migration results from a unique set of circumstances following the war in Ukraine and the recovery from the Covid-19 crisis.

“We cannot assume that they represent a ‘new normal’ and it would be premature to base any major policy decisions solely on these figures.

“Some of the key contributors to immigration from non-EU countries, such as the arrival of Ukrainians, are not expected to continue indefinitely, and emigration is expected to increase in the coming years.

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Emma Colton

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