Net migration ‘unusually high’ as UK heads towards General Election

Friday, May 24, 2024

LONDON: Net migration remains “unusually high” as the UK heads towards an election, experts said, despite official estimates suggesting a 10 per cent drop in numbers last year.

It comes after the measure for the difference between the number of people arriving and leaving the country hit a new record of 764,000 in 2022 – 19,000 higher than previously thought – according to revised figures from the Office for National Statistics (ONS).

The data also indicates net migration levels are estimated to have fallen in 2023 to 685,000. But this is still more than three times higher than the figure at the time of the last election when the Conservatives promised to cut overall numbers in their 2019 manifesto.

The latest figures, published a day after the General Election was called, have fuelled the immigration debate – a key campaign battleground – with both the Conservatives and Labour claiming to hold the answer to cutting the numbers.

The Migration Observatory at the University of Oxford said net migration “remained at unusually high levels”.The ONS – which revised its net migration figures now that more complete data is available – said it is too early to tell if this is the start of a new downward trend but that the most recent estimates indicate the number of people coming to the UK is slowing while the number of those leaving is rising.

Work was the biggest driver of migration in 2023, overtaking study, for the first time since 2019. There was a substantial increase in the number of people arriving from outside the EU on work visas last year, particularly from India or Nigeria most commonly on health and care worker visas. And dependants – who were typically children – outnumbered main applicants on these types of visas.

Home Secretary James Cleverly insisted the plan to cut legal migration levels was “working” despite other figures from his department signalling a jump in the number of work visa applications.

Provisional Home Office figures to April 2024, published on Wednesday, indicated a drop in the number of visa applications from overseas students and foreign care workers but also suggested the number of skilled worker visa applications has risen by 50 per cent in the first four months of this year compared with the same period in 2023.Labour’s shadow home secretary Yvette Cooper accused the Conservatives of total “chaos and failure” on immigration.