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Net migration to UK hits record high – surpassing levels seen before Brexit

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Migration to the UK reaches record high

Migration to the UK reaches record high

Net migration in the UK has hit a record high of 504,000 in the past year, surpassing levels seen even before Brexit.

Data from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) showed that net migration rose from 173,000 in the year to June 2021, to 504,000 in the year to June 2022, an increase of 331,000.

The total – based on the number entering the UK minus those leaving – is 170,000 more than the previous post-War record of 331,000 in 2015.

The increase stems from a surge in visas for foreign nationals to live, study and work in the UK, which exceeded one million for the first time in the year to June.

The increase has also been fuelled by the arrival of Ukrainian and Afghan refugees and Hong Kongers, on top of a slump in the number of people leaving the UK.

The figures will raise concerns over the Government’s election manifesto pledge to bring down net migration, a promise repeated by Rishi Sunak and Suella Braverman, the Home Secretary, who told the Tory conference her ambition was to reduce it below 100,000.

The total is significantly higher than the 224,000 projected for next year by the Office for Budget Responsibility (OBR) as part of the Autumn Statement and the expected steady decline to 205,000 a year.

Home Office ministers pressing for new curbs

However, it is understood that Home Office ministers are pressing No 10 on the need for measures to curb uneconomic legal migration in order to fulfil the Tories’ manifesto pledge.

These could include restrictions on the rights of students to bring in dependents, a crackdown on those who do not complete their courses but remain in the UK, and curbs on foreign students on “uneconomic” low-quality courses. The salary threshold for skilled workers could also be raised.

The ONS figures showed that 1.1 million people came to live in the UK in the year to June 2022, an increase of 435,000 on the previous year. Separate Home Office figures showed that it had risen to 1.4 million people granted residence in the year to September.

The surge has been largely driven by non-EU nationals, who accounted for 704,000 or 66 per cent of the total up until June 2022, a rise of 379,000 on the previous year. EU immigration remained stable at around 224,000, or 21 per cent of the total.

Students account for biggest proportion

Students accounted for the biggest proportion at 277,000, nearly double the 143,000 who came to the UK in the year to June 2021.

The ONS suggested this could be partly due to students returning to their courses in the UK after studying remotely overseas during the pandemic.

It also said the increase could have been fuelled by the new graduate visa route encouraging more students to come to the UK because of the chance to work for up to three years after completing their studies.

Humanitarian and other family visas accounted for the second largest proportion of immigrants, at 39 per cent or 276,000 in the year ending June 2022, three times the 91,000 in the previous year. These included 89,000 Ukrainians, 76,000 from Hong Kong and 21,000 Afghans or Britons returning from Afghanistan.

Separate Home Office data also released on Thursday showed the number of asylum applications for the year ending September 2022 was at a two-decade high of 72,027. That is double the 2019 figure.

Asylum was granted in 77 per cent of cases decided, rising to 98 per cent for those from Afghanistan, Eritrea and Syria.

The backlog of cases waiting for initial decision has now increased from 122,000 in June 2022 to 143,000 in September.

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