Net immigration up to 215,000 as Britons stay home

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Net immigration up to 215,000 as Britons stay home

25 novembre 2010 - The Guardian - Alan Travis

A 10-year low in the number of British citizens leaving the country has seen net immigration rise to 215,000 in the year to March 2010, according to official figures published today.

The unexpected rise will make the promise by the home secretary, Theresa May, to reduce the figure from "hundreds of thousands to tens of thousands" by the next general election even harder to achieve. Net immigration has risen by more than 50,000 since the Conservatives promised to cut it in their manifesto.

The Office for National Statistics also said the annual long-term migration statistics showed the highest recorded number of people arriving to study in Britain in 2009. However, separate Home Office figures also published today, which exclude students from EU countries, show the rise is a return to levels last seen between 2005 and 2007.

The discrepancy is likely to confuse ministers preparing to publish proposals to close the door to up to 120,000 international students in order to meet their immigration target.

The Home Office quarterly migration figures also show the number of asylum seekers has fallen for 15 successive months, with only 4,440 claiming refugee status between July and September. The largest number came from Iran (580), Sri Lanka (345) and Afghanistan (315).

The asylum figures show that 35 children, including five under-fives, have been detained purely for immigration purposes since the election of the coalition government on a pledge to end the practice. The most recent figure shows that 15 children, including six toddlers, were detained in October, mostly in Yarl’s Wood detention centre.

The removal of failed asylum seekers has fallen again in the past 12 months, with a 17% drop in the number who went home voluntarily or were deported to 17,705 between July and September 2010 compared with a year earlier.

The ONS figures on net migration show that 580,000 people came to work or study in the UK for more than a year in the 12 months to March 2010, while 364,000 moved abroad over the same period. This gives a rounded net migration figure of 215,000.

ONS statisticians said the rise since the 2008 figure of 163,000 was driven mainly by a fall in emigration, with a 10-year low in the number of Britons leaving the country. The number of people coming to Britain from outside the EU remained virtually unchanged last year at 303,000

The most popular destinations are the US and Australia, with 56,000 people heading there last year, the same number as in 2008. Of those leaving the UK, one in three said they had a definite job to go to and one in four were looking for work.

The figures also show the number moving to Poland has fallen sharply from 50,000 in 2007 to 24,000 last year.

The immigration minister, Damian Green, said the figures showed why it was necessary to tighten the immigration system further to reduce net migration to manageable levels.

"The annual limit that we announced this week will ensure we continue to attract the brightest and the best while we reduce economic migration by more than a fifth compared with last year.

"We will shortly be launching a consultation on student visas, so as with economic migration we refocus on the areas which add the greatest value, protecting our world class universities."


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