Net immigration in the UK hit a record 606,000 in 2022, despite government pledges to reduce this number.
Data released Thursday by the country’s National Statistics Office showed that 925,000 of the long-stay expats were from non-EU nationals, while 151,000 were from the EU and 88,000 from the British.
The total number of UK migrants abroad totaled 557,000, of which 202,000 were EU nationals – meaning more people from the bloc left than arrived. The share of EU nationals coming to the UK fell from 42% in 2019, before the UK formally left the EU, to 13%.
Reducing net immigration was a pledge in the ruling Conservative Party’s election manifesto in 2019, when the figure was 226,000. Previous figures released in November showed net immigration at 504,000 in the year to June.
The government confirmed that many of the new arrivals were refugees from Ukraine, Afghanistan and Hong Kong. As the percentage of arrivals through humanitarian routes increased from 9% to 19% in 2022, compared to the previous year, according to what was reported by the “CNBC” network, which was reviewed by “Al Arabiya.net”.
Legal immigration is a contentious issue within the Conservative Party. This comes as the government seeks to boost tepid economic growth and ease labor market distress, which is causing challenges for businesses and raising wages at a time of high inflation.
For his part, Prime Minister Rishi Sunak has said he wants to reduce net migration to below 500,000, around the level it was when he took office last fall.
However, he has clashed with the more hawkish Home Secretary, Soella Braverman, over some of the proposed measures to bring down numbers. Sunak also stressed that migrant workers are essential for sectors including the National Health Service.
In a speech earlier this month, Braverman said, “It is not xenophobic to say that mass and rapid immigration is unsustainable in terms of housing provision, service and community relations.” She also said Britons should fill job roles that are in short supply, such as truck drivers, butchers and fruit pickers.
It is noteworthy that Braverman is the daughter of immigrant parents of Indian origin who moved to Britain via Kenya and Mauritius, in addition to the fact that the current British Prime Minister is also of Indian origin.
On Tuesday, Braverman announced restrictions on student visas, the biggest source of immigration to the UK. Only graduate students will be able to bring family members into the country under the new rules.
The Home Office also said it would stop people “using a student visa as a back route to work in the UK” by preventing them from switching types of visas until they finish their studies and checks on proof of funds.
And from 2025, even tourists to the UK from the European Union and foreign countries including the US will need an e-Visa to enter, with the government admitting it does not currently have accurate figures on arrivals and departures.
In response to the new figures, a Home Office spokesperson said the UK had introduced “safe and legal routes” for people in need of protection and had seen “growth in use of a range of visa routes including an unprecedented rise in the number of dependents arriving with students” which “contributed understandably at high levels of net migration.”
“This week, we have implemented the toughest action ever by the government to reduce immigration by revoking the right of most international students to bring family members, while still benefiting from the skills and resources our economy needs,” they said. “We remain committed to reducing overall net migration.”