United King­dom mi­gra­tion hits record level over twelve months


Net mi­gra­tion to Bri­tain has hit record lev­els, of­fi­cial fig­ures showed Thurs­day, with the dif­fer­ence be­tween mi­grants leav­ing and ar­riv­ing in Bri­tain ris­ing to around 329,000 in the year to March.

“The net mi­gra­tion fig­ure was a sta­tis­ti­cally sig­nif­i­cant in­crease from 236,000 in year end­ing March 2014 and is the high­est net mi­gra­tion on record,” the Of­fice for Na­tional Sta­tis­tics (ONS) said.

Immigration Min­is­ter James Bro­ken­shire called the fig­ures “deeply dis­ap­point­ing.”

Prime Min­is­ter David Cameron had vowed to re­duce the num­bers to less than 100,000 by May of this year.

Some 636,000 peo­ple im­mi­grated to Bri­tain over the 12-month pe­riod, a rise of 84,000, while 307,000 peo­ple em­i­grated, down 9,000.

The net fig­ure is 9,000 more than the pre­vi­ous record, which was set in the year end­ing June 2005.

The re­port found that 269,000 EU cit­i­zens had moved to Bri­tain per­ma­nently, a “sta­tis­ti­cally sig­nif­i­cant” in­crease of 56,000.

Around 53,000 were Ro­ma­nian and Bul­gar­ian cit­i­zens, al­most dou­ble the 28,000 in the pre­vi­ous 12 months.

Prime Min­is­ter Cameron has vowed to hold a ref­er­en­dum on Bri­tain’s mem­ber­ship of the Euro­pean Union by 2017, and is hop­ing to wrest pow­ers from Brus­sels, par­tic­u­larly over immigration, be­fore the vote.

‘Not sus­tain­able’

Bro­ken­shire called the fig­ures a “wake-up call.”

“While these fig­ures un­der­line the chal­lenges we need to meet to re­duce net mi­gra­tion, they should also act as a fur­ther wake-up call for the EU. Cur­rent flows of peo­ple across Europe are on a scale we haven’t seen since the end of the Sec­ond World War,” he said.

“This is not sus­tain­able and risks the fu­ture eco­nomic de­vel­op­ment of other EU mem­ber states. It re­in­forces the need for fur­ther re­form at an EU level as well as within the UK.”

Keith Vaz, a se­nior law­maker from the op­po­si­tion Labour Party, said the fig­ures were “shock­ing.”

“Bro­ken prom­ises on mi­gra­tion do not build con­fi­dence with the public. We need a rad­i­cally dif­fer­ent ap­proach,” he said.

Nigel Farage, leader of the an­tiEU UK In­de­pen­dence Party, said the fig­ures “re­flect border­less Bri­tain and to­tal im­po­tence of the Bri­tish gov­ern­ment.

“If open borders are not part of the Cameron rene­go­ti­a­tion then what’s the point of it?” he said.

But busi­ness lead­ers said Cameron’s at­tempts to cut in­ward mi­gra­tion were “pun­ish­ing busi­nesses.”

“Scrab­bling around to find mea­sures to hit a bizarre and un­achiev­able mi­gra­tion tar­get is no way to give Bri­tish busi­nesses the sta­ble en­vi­ron­ment they need,” said Si­mon Walker, di­rec­tor gen­eral of the In­sti­tute of Di­rec­tors.

“Com­bined with min­is­ters’ in­creas­ingly strong rhetoric on immigration, the UK’s rep­u­ta­tion as an open, com­pet­i­tive econ­omy is un­der threat.”

The fig­ures also re­vealed that Bri­tain’s for­eign-born pop­u­la­tion has now sur­passed eight mil­lion for the first time, mean­ing one in eight res­i­dents were born abroad, up from one in 11 in 2014.

There were 25,771 asy­lum ap­pli­ca­tions in the 12-month pe­riod, an in­crease of 10 per­cent, with the largest num­ber of ap­pli­ca­tions com­ing from na­tion­als of Eritrea (3,568), Pak­istan (2,302) and Syria (2,204)

De­spite the refugee cri­sis in the Mid­dle East and North Africa, the fig­ure re­mains low rel­a­tive to the peak num­ber of ap­pli­ca­tions — 84,132 — in 2002.

Immigration has been a hot topic in Bri­tain over the sum­mer, with the front-pages dom­i­nated by news of mi­grants massed at the French port of Calais try­ing to en­ter the coun­try through the Chan­nel Tun­nel.

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