Net migration hits record high, official statistics show

Rishi Sunak is facing a political storm today after net immigration to Britain rose to a record 504,000 by June.

The extraordinary figure – roughly equivalent to the population of Liverpool – is nearly three times that of the last 12 months.

Officials said the increase comes as hundreds of thousands of refugees from Afghanistan, Hong Kong and Ukraine win the right to live in the UK – along with an end to Covid travel restrictions and a surge in student numbers.

They also stressed that the numbers cannot be directly compared to previous years because the methodology has changed significantly.

However, the numbers will worry the government, as levels appear to be well above their pre-Brexit referendum highs. Immigration from the European Union was negative during the year, offsetting arrivals from the rest of the world.

Home Secretary Soella Braverman has indicated her ambition to achieve the long-standing Tory goal of reducing annual net immigration to “tens of thousands”.

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

Instead, he focused on illegal immigration and the migrant crisis in the Canal, suggesting that legal avenues could be opened to address the skills shortage.

Asylum applications are not included in migration statistics.

Separate Home Office data released today shows that in the year ending September 2023 there were 72,027 asylum applications, double the number in 2019 and the highest since 2003.

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

Historical figures show that the UK is experiencing record emigration as well as a labor shortage as job vacancies outstrip job seekers and real wages fall.

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

The number of people classified as not working for gain — also due to illness — has reached new highs in the wake of the pandemic.

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

Home Secretary Soella Braverman has signaled her ambition to achieve the Conservative Party's long-standing goal of reducing annual net immigration to

Home Secretary Soella Braverman has indicated her ambition to achieve the long-standing Tory goal of reducing annual net immigration to “tens of thousands”.

It is expected that 1.1 million people will have migrated 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, and almost half of them – 275,000 – returned to the EU.

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

The long-term net migration figure of 504,000 in the year ending June compares with the estimate of 173,000 for the 12-month period to June 2021.

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

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

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

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

The number of people who applied for asylum in the UK up to June was 72,027, about the same level as at 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 showed Britain had 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 unique and unprecedented circumstances that have a significant impact on these statistics.

“The prime minister said he wanted to reduce net immigration, and he did not give a specific time frame for that.”

Ministers have come under intense pressure to get Britain’s borders under control after the Conservative Party pledged to cut net immigration in its 2019 election manifesto.

“We’ve lost control of our borders,” Ms Braverman said yesterday as she blamed the migration crisis in the English Channel on economic migrants “who take advantage of the generosity of the British people”.

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

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

“In the twelve months to June 2023, a number of global events affected patterns of international migration. Taken together, these were unprecedented,” said Guy Lindup, deputy director of the National Migration Office at the Center for International Migration.

“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 a new visa route for British nationals from Hong Kong, all of which have contributed to the record long-term immigration levels we have seen.

“Immigration from non-EU countries, particularly students, is driving this increase. With travel restrictions lifted in 2021, more students have come 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 who arrive for humanitarian protection, for example from Ukraine, as well as for family reasons.

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

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

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ONS figures showed that immigration topped one million in the year to June, with visas a major factor

ONS figures showed that emigration topped one million in the year ending in June, with the main factor being visas for “other” routes such as those fleeing Ukraine, Afghanistan and Hong Kong.

But immigration from outside the EU has increased, not because of policies designed to replace freedom of movement in the EU. Humanitarian routes to Ukraine and Hong Kong, and the surge in international students, played the biggest roles in increasing the number of migrants.

This extraordinarily high level of net migration is the result of a unique combination of circumstances following the war in Ukraine and the recovery from the COVID-19 crisis.

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

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

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