Despite government pledges, migration into U.K. soars

LONDON — Net arrivals from outside the European Union, Ukraine and Hong Kong are at a record high, despite the Conservative government’s pledge to reduce immigration to Britain, data released Thursday showed.

Around 1.2 million people arrived in the UK in 2022, and 557,000 left – putting “net migration” at 606,000, a record high for an entire calendar year. “The numbers are huge, it’s as simple as that,” British Prime Minister Rishi Shankar told ITV after the numbers were released. “I want to bring them down.”

The figures have reignited debate about immigration levels, long a hot-button issue in Britain and one of the drivers behind the country’s decision to leave the European Union. Many in the pro-Brexit campaign said they wanted the UK to “take back control” of its borders and expressed deep concern over pressure on immigration and public services.

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A closer look at the figures reveals the very real impact of Brexit, with more EU citizens leaving than arriving in the UK last year, a net loss of 51,000 EU citizens. But there was a jump in people coming from the rest of the world, particularly to work in health and social care. In addition, the number of international students was high, accounting for nearly 40 percent of all non-EU migrants in 2022.

Britain also welcomed 110,000 Ukrainians and 50,000 Hong Kongers on special visas.

There is an attitude towards the level of displacement. changed dramatically Since the 2016 Brexit vote. It is no longer the important issue it once was. Polls show Britons worry more about inflation or the economy than immigration.

Rob Ford, professor of politics at the University of Manchester, told a Twitter Spaces event on the topic that the picture had changed dramatically since the 2016 referendum. “There has been a massive increase in public support for further migration for catering, restaurants, construction, fruit picking. Voters are responding to these pressures,” he said.

“The architects of Brexit should be delighted,” he added. “We have a system that the voters approve, and when the pressures on the labor market increase, the voters say ‘OK.’ That’s where the voters are. We need politicians to stand up to them.

But taking a hard line on immigration has worked for previous Conservative governments, and the current one is betting on it.

Sink has said he wants to bring net migration below 500,000, a figure he “inherited” when he came into office. His administration has also halted the arrival of asylum seekers on “small boats”, one of its five key promises ahead of the next general election, which must be held by January 2025. According to a recent poll, he is trailing the opposition Labor Party by 18 points.

New data released Thursday tell several stories, one of which is that net migration may be on the rise.

Madeleine Sumption, director of the Migration Observatory at the University of Oxford said, “These unusually high net migration levels have no single cause but are the result of several things happening at once: the war in Ukraine, a boom in international student recruitment, and high demand for health and care workers.” ” While future trends are difficult to predict, he said, “there is no reason to assume that net migration will remain this high indefinitely.”

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