Net migration to Britain reached record levels last year, official figures showed Thursday, putting pressure on the UK government that has made the issue a political touchstone, APA reports citing CNN.
Britain saw net migration of 606,000 people in 2022, the Office for National Statistics (ONS) said, with 1.2 million people arriving in the country and about half that number leaving.
That comes despite pledges from successive Conservative governments to drastically reduce the numbers of people moving to the UK, particularly in the wake of Brexit – a rupture that was touted by its proponents as a necessary step for Britain to “take control” of its borders.
Thursday’s figures were affected by the lifting of Covid-19 travel restrictions and the Russian invasion of Ukraine, which resulted in two new schemes by which Ukrainian refugees could resettle in the UK. “These (figures) are down to world events, but they’re also down to how the UK government has chosen to respond to world events,” Rob McNeil, the deputy director of the Oxford Migration Observatory, told CNN.
The vast majority of people arriving – 925,000 – were non-EU nationals, and around one in 12 of those were asylum seekers, included for the first time in the ONS’ annual release.
“The main drivers of the increase were people coming to the UK from non-EU countries for work, study and for humanitarian purposes,” Jay Lindop, Director of the Centre for International Migration at the ONS, said Thursday.
Some observers had predicted Thursday’s figures would be higher; the ONS said a slowing in immigration meant “levels of net migration have levelled off in recent quarters.”
But the headline figure will force difficult questions for Prime Minister Rishi Sunak, and his embattled Home Secretary Suella Braverman, both of whom have joined their predecessors in promising to reduce arrivals despite the strain on Britain’s public services, where key sectors like health care are marred by chronic staffing shortages.
The pair have sought to focus attention on refugees and asylum-seekers crossing the English Channel on small boats, rather than on overall migration, despite that route representing a tiny proportion of arrivals to the UK.
Ministers have been criticized by rights organizations and politicians across the political divide for their use of hardline rhetoric against those people, with Braverman controversially rallying against an “invasion” of migrants across the Channel.