27 Feb 2014

UK net migration up by third: government’s target ‘unlikely’

Fogadtatás! Or maybe, Bine ai venit! Three times as many Romanians and Bulgarians arrived in the UK last year as in the year before. Overall, 212,000 more people came to the UK than left.

The rise of long-term migrants compared to the previous year was called a “statistically significant increase” by the Office for National Statistics (ONS).

The new figure of 212,000 long-terms migrants represents the net flow – the number of people moving to the UK, minus the numbers leaving these shores – and shows a 30 per cent increase on the 154,000 migrants the year before.

The increase was driven mainly by EU citizens, particularly those from recession hit-countries Spain, Italy and Portugal, as well as Poland.

There were nearly three times as many Romanians and Bulgarians arriving in the UK last year than in the year before: 24,000 arrived in the year ending in September 2013, compared to 9,000 in the previous twelve months.

Around 70 per cent came to work, while 30 per cent arrived to study. These figures do not take into account those who have arrived since working visa restrictions were lifted at the beginning of the year.

Government pledge v reality

The new quarterly report has cast doubt on whether the government can meet its target of bringing net migration under 100,000 by the next general election.

Home Secretary Theresa May has pledged to reduce the figure to “tens of thousands”, and despite Thursday’s figures, Downing Street again insisted the government was still committed to that pledge.

The prime minister’s spokesman said: “We have the objective of bringing net migration down to the tens of thousands, that’s absolutely our objective, and that is what we are going to work towards”.

However population experts were less sure.

The University of Oxford’s Migration Observatory said hitting this target is “extremely unlikely”, especially because the key changes are related to EU migration – “an area over which immigration policy has less direct influence,” said Director Scott Blinder.

But Thursday’s figures remained below the peak reached in the early years of the coalition government in 2011, when net migration to the UK was 263,000.

The detail

In total, 532,000 migrated to Britain, during the last year, and 320,000 emigrants left, which makes up the 212,000 net migration figure.

Of those who arrived, there were 60,000 more EU migrants and 25,000 more migrants from the rest of the world, compared to the year before.

Measures to stem non-EU student migration appear to have had an impact: immigration from outside Europe fell from 269,000 to 244,000, and applications for further study in the UK is down by 34 per cent.

In terms of asylum seekers, there was an 8 per cent increase in applications compared with the year before, mainly from Syria, as well as Eritrea and Albania.