Migration soars to highest level on record as Tories fail to deliver on their promise
Published: 25/05/2023- 09:36
Updated: 25/05/2023- 14:27
Net migration hit record levels last year, with figures estimated to have reached 606,000 - despite promises from ministers that “overall numbers will come down”.
According the Office for National Statistics the figures are substantially higher than the 226,000 level in 2019 when the Tories pledged to reduce numbers following the introduction of post-Brexit border controls.
The figure, which is the difference between the number of people moving to the UK and the number leaving, is up from 488,000 in 2021.
The record levels of net migration are down to a “series of unprecedented world events throughout 2022 and the lifting of restrictions following the coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic”, the ONS said.
The figure, which is the difference between the number of people moving to the UK and the number leaving, is up from 488,000 in 2021
Ministers have been braced for the figure for several weeks. Brexiters in Government, including Rishi Sunak and Suella Braverman, had argued that leaving the EU would allow them to take control of UK borders.
The figures are lower than experts had forecast, but will result in demands from Conservative MPs to go further to clamp down on the record-high numbers.
The surge in net migration is likely to pile further pressure on Sunak to implement further measures.
During a recent trip to Japan, Sunak promised action to bring down netmigration, telling reporters that the “numbers are too high”, but refused to commit to stick to Boris Johnson’s 2019 promise to bring down the overall figures to below 245,000.
The ONS said factors contributing to high levels of immigration over the past 18 months include people coming to the UK from non-EU countries for work, study, and for humanitarian purposes, including those arriving from Ukraine and Hong Kong.
As part of attempts to reduce net migration, the Government announced that overseas students will be banned from bringing dependants to the UK from January 2024.
Sunak said it was the “biggest-ever single measure to tackle legal migration, removing the right for international students to bring dependants, toughening the rules on post-study work, and reviewing maintenance requirements”.
Rishi Sunak said the net migration figures are “too high” but denied they were out of control.
The Prime Minister added that the public should “rest assured” that the Government is working to bring down overall migration numbers.
“This week we announced the new measures, and I think pretty much the biggest thing that anyone’s ever announced to bring the levels of migration down," Sunak told ITV.
“And it’s a new policy which limits the amount of family members that people who are studying here can bring with them when they come and study here.
“And what we’ve seen over the last few years is that number of dependants has just absolutely spiralled, almost 150,000 dependants of people who are studying here coming. We’re saying from now on, that’s not going to be allowed.
“There’s a few other things we’re doing as well, but that’s going make a big difference because I want to get the numbers down.
“People have heard me talking a lot about illegal migration and stopping the boats. This matters as well.”
GB News presenter Nigel Farage said today's new record high for net migration represented a "total breach of trust" between voters and ministers.
He tweeted: "These figures are a total breach of trust between voters and this government. The population explosion continues, our quality of life is declining and all the government will do is to give us more lies."
Labour has unveiled immigration plans under which businesses would be stopped from easing staff shortages by hiring cheaper overseas workers.
The surge in net migration is likely to pile further pressure on Sunak to implement further measures
Suella Braverman had argued that leaving the EU would allow them to take control of UK borders
Shadow home secretary Yvette Cooper said: “These extraordinary figures, including doubling the number of work visas since the pandemic, show the Conservatives have no plan and no grip on immigration.
“Ministers have completely failed to tackle skills shortages, especially in health and social care, or to get people back into work after Covid.
“Net migration should come down and we expect it to do so. Support we have rightly given to Ukrainians and Hong Kongers has unusually affected the figures this year.
“But that can’t disguise the fact that the Conservatives’ chaotic approach means that work visas are up 119 per cent, net migration is more than twice the level ministers were aiming for, and the asylum backlog is at a record high despite Rishi Sunak promising to clear it this year.”
Jay Lindop, ONS director of the centre for international migration, said a series of “unprecedented world events throughout 2022”, together with the lifting of restrictions following the Covid-19 pandemic, led to record levels of international immigration to the UK.
He continued: “The main drivers of the increase were people coming to the UK from non-EU countries for work, study and for humanitarian purposes, including those arriving from Ukraine and Hong Kong.
“There are some signs that the underlying drivers behind these high levels of migration are changing. As lockdown restrictions were lifted in 2021, we saw a sharp increase in students arriving. Recent data suggests that those arriving in 2021 are now leaving the country, with the overall share of non-EU immigration for students falling in 2022.
“In contrast those arriving on humanitarian routes increased over the 12 months. Evidence also suggests immigration has slowed in recent months, potentially demonstrating the temporary nature of these events.”