Why Are So Many People Moving to the U.K.?
For years, Britain’s ruling Conservative Party has promised to limit immigration, and a pledge to “take back control” of borders and migration was central to the Brexit campaign to leave the EU.
Instead, immigration increased in 2022, according to national statistics released Thursday — news that was somewhat Shame on party leadersWhich pro-Brexit voters expected him to fall.
Last year, net migration to the UK – minus people moving in – the number of people leaving – hit a record 606,000, new figures show. This is a 24% increase from 2021, and almost double the rate of net migration in the years just before and after the 2016 Brexit referendum.
Migration is driven by a complex mix of domestic and global factors such as war, job opportunities and politics. So what do the figures say about what is happening in the UK?
Violence and repression fuel migration.
Around 600,000 people moved to the UK every year from 2004 to 2017. In 2022, that number rose to 1.163 million, the highest ever and a figure unlikely to be matched anytime soon.
The number of people fleeing the Russian invasion of Ukraine rose sharply last year (more than 120,000 Ukrainians have moved to the UK since the start of the war in February 2022), the Taliban takeover in Afghanistan and civil rights in Hong Kong. A growing crackdown on . The UK has humanitarian visa programs specifically for these groups.
But those flows already show signs of slowing. And some of last year’s increase may have been a move that was earlier happening but was delayed by the coronavirus pandemic when migration slowed.
Until a few years ago, migration from the EU accounted for most of the influx of people into the UK. But after Brexit stripped EU citizens of their automatic right to settle in the UK, the number fell sharply, to less than 8% of the total last year.
Emigration from the UK has increased in recent years, much of it repatriation of EU citizens.
Education and economics also play an important role.
While the current Conservative government has long opposed high levels of immigration, the UK Great labor shortageParticularly in healthcare, social services and agriculture, partly because of Brexit.
The unemployment rate is below 4%, where it was before the pandemic, and there are many job vacancies, so whatever the government’s position, the UK remains attractive to migrants looking for work. Many employers want the government to issue more work visas.
The government also points to education as a driver of immigration. Foreign graduate students living in the UK have increasingly taken advantage of a provision allowing them to obtain visas for their family members.
Sylla Braverman, Home Secretary, said recently That such visas increased 750 percent from 2019 to 136,000 last year. Most were for people from Nigeria and India.
The government said it would make it harder to get dependent visas, but immigration experts say the change will have limited impact, and universities argue against discouraging foreign students, who say The economy benefits.
English Channel arrivals are a small fraction of migration.
In recent years the political rhetoric surrounding migration in the UK has largely focused on the influx of people – mostly refugees – in small boats across the English Channel.
But the new migration data offered a timely reminder that the undocumented people who dangerously cross the Channel make up only a small fraction of new arrivals, while the majority enter legally.
In 2022, only 45,755 people were found to reach the Channel by small boats, according to Government statistics published this year. This number is 3.8% of the total number of visitors to the UK.
But even in response to the new migration figures released on Thursday, the Home Office focused on ways to keep boat arrivals down in addition to reducing overall immigration.
“We are committed to reducing overall net migration, combating abuse and preventing dangerous and illegal crossings, by interdicting boats and providing control of our borders,” the office said in a statement.