Net migration to UK higher than when coalition took office
Net flow of 298,000 long-term migrants to UK last year shatters PM’s ‘no ifs, no buts’ promise to cut number to ‘tens of thousands’
The new figures will be an embarrassment for David Cameron
The new figures will be an embarrassment for David Cameron. Photograph: Carl Court/Getty Images
Alan Travis, home affairs editor
Thursday 26 February 2015 10.29 GMT Last modified on Thursday 26 February 2015 12.44 GMT
Net migration to Britain was 298,000 last year, shattering David Cameron’s “no ifs, no buts” promise to reduce it to the “tens of thousands” by the time of the general election, official figures show.
Publication of the latest set of quarterly migration figures means that the Conservatives will go into the election with the politically sensitive net migration figure 54,000 higher than when they made their pledge in 2010.
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Instead of reducing net migration to Britain to below 100,000, the latest figures show that it is now almost 300,000 and at its highest level since 2005.
The Office for National Statistics said the rise was fuelled by increases in both immigration from outside the EU – 49,000 – which is subject to a complex visa regime – and an increase of 43,000 from within the EU, which is subject only to free movement rules.
The figures for the 12 months to September 2014 show that immigration rose from 530,000 the previous year to 624,000, while emigration remained stable at 327,000.
The Oxford University-based Migration Observatory said that Britain’s success in stimulating economic growth and job creation appeared to be a key factor undermining the government’s efforts to reduce net migration.
“If the UK’s economic performance compared to the rest of the EU had been poor, then we might well have seen net migration fall, but that has not happened. Rising work-related migration from outside the EU has also contributed,” said Madeleine Sumption, the Migration Observatory’s director.
The Conservatives’ net migration target was never endorsed by their Liberal Democrat coalition partners. The home secretary, Theresa May, has driven through repeated immigration squeezes on overseas students, family migration and on “benefit tourists” over the past five years.
The Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants said that to achieve the unrealistic target, the government had been forced to put forward harsher and increasingly more worrying policies that only served to create tensions among communities.
“Families are being torn apart, causing unnecessary additional heartache; migrant NHS staff, which we continue to recruit, are being unfairly treated, and international students are targeted as a result of arbitrary net migration figures,” said the JCWI.
The failure of David Cameron's migration policy has been spectacular
The immigration minister, James Brokenshire, admitted that the figures were “clearly disappointing” and left much more to do. He said: “As we have said for some time, we have been blown off course by net migration from within the EU, which has more than doubled since 2010.
“That’s why we need to continue to crack down on the abuse of EU free movement and continue our reforms to make the welfare system fairer. We also need to make sure that people on time-limited visas, such as students, do leave at the end of their visa.”
Nick Clegg, the deputy prime minister, said the news was “very embarrassing for the Conservatives”, and added he had warned the prime minister against making the commitment.
“It was inevitable he was going to break it because you can’t control the net figure,” he told LBC Radio.
“I think it’s very embarrassing for the Conservatives. They made a huge amount of fanfare about it and they were warned. They were warned by me and others, privately: ‘Don’t do this, it doesn’t make any sense.’
“And now of course, I think they quite rightly will have to suffer the embarrassment having made a commitment on something which people care about passionately, which is immigration. They have made a commitment and they have failed spectacularly to deliver it.”
The prime minister’s deputy official spokesman denied that allegations that Downing Street had used the publication of the Jimmy Savile report as a way of distracting from the immigration figures. “It’s clear that both issues are getting prominent coverage,” she said, while declining to say whether Number 10 or the Department of Health was responsible for the timing.
The spokesman said Cameron found the figures “disappointing” but continues to stand by the government’s record on delivering action to reduce net migration. She said a large percentage of the rise can be attributed to EU citizens seeking work in the UK because of its attractive economic climate. Cameron’s efforts to deter new EU arrivals are focused on reducing benefits.
The detailed figures show that the largest element in the latest rise in immigration was in those coming to work, which rose 54,000 to 271,000. The numbers coming to study in Britain rose by 17,000 to 192,000 while those coming to join family in the UK rose by 14,000 to 90,000.
Of those coming to work in Britain 57% came from within the EU, 25% from outside Europe and the remainder were returning British citizens, the ONS figures show.
The detailed breakdown of EU nationals working in Britain shows that most of the increase came from western European countries and Romania and Bulgaria, while other eastern European numbers remained steady.
THE BOATLOADS OF REFUGEES ARRIVING IN SPAIN, ITALY, GREECE AND ELSEWHERE ARE MOSTLY MOHAMMEDAN.
THEY MUST BE DIVERTED TO ISLAMIC REPUBLICS. THERE ARE OVER FIFTY OF THEM
IF THIS IS NOT DONE EUROPE WILL BE SWAMPED WITH MUSLIMS IN A FEW DECADES. THEN WE SHALL SEE SCENES LIKE SYRIA, IRAK AND LIBYA.