UK net migration figures hit record high as Suella Braverman 'goes to ground'
NET migration of people to the UK hit a record high in 2022, according to new figures from the Office for National Statistics (ONS).
Some 606,000 more people arrived in the UK than left, the new data says. This is roughly equivalent to the entire population of Glasgow, according to estimates from the National Records of Scotland.
The ONS said a total of 1.2 million people are likely to have migrated to the UK in 2022, while 557,000 are estimated to have migrated from the UK in the same period.
The 606,000 figure, which is the difference between the number of people moving to the UK and the number leaving, is up from 488,000 in 2021.
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The estimates include people who have come to the UK from Ukraine and Hong Kong under resettlement schemes, as well as overseas students – though there are signs that those who first arrived for study reasons in 2021 are now starting to leave, according to the ONS.
The SNP said that the “Westminster obsession with net migration figures masks the fact the UK Government is failing to attract the talent we need in key sectors to boost our economy and NHS”.
The party’s home affairs spokesperson, Alison Thewliss, went on: “Damaging Tory and Labour Brexit and hostile environment policies have driven talent away – and caused staffing shortages that have harmed our NHS, businesses and public services, leaving people in Scotland worse off.”
And Labour accused Home Secretary Suella Braverman of having "gone to ground" to avoid scrutiny over the figures.
Jay Lindop, ONS director of the centre for international migration, said a series of “unprecedented world events throughout 2022”, together with the lifting of restrictions following the Covid-19 pandemic, led to record levels of international immigration to the UK.
She continued: “The main drivers of the increase were people coming to the UK from non-EU countries for work, study and for humanitarian purposes, including those arriving from Ukraine and Hong Kong.
“There are some signs that the underlying drivers behind these high levels of migration are changing. As lockdown restrictions were lifted in 2021, we saw a sharp increase in students arriving. Recent data suggests that those arriving in 2021 are now leaving the country, with the overall share of non-EU immigration for students falling in 2022.
“In contrast, those arriving on humanitarian routes increased over the 12 months. Evidence also suggests immigration has slowed in recent months, potentially demonstrating the temporary nature of these events.”
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Immigration is estimated to have slowed in recent months while emigration has increased, meaning the net migration total of 606,000 for the year to December 2022 is similar to the level in the 12 months to June 2022, the ONS said.
Previous migration data has been revised to include asylum applicants for the first time, meaning the original estimate for the year to June – 504,000 – has been increased by just over 100,000.
The new figures show some 925,000 non-EU nationals are likely to have come to the UK during the whole of 2022, compared with 263,000 who left the country.
The reverse is true for EU nationals, with more estimated to have left the UK – 202,000 – than arrived – 151,000.
People arriving on study-related visas accounted for the largest proportion (39%) of long-term immigration of non-EU nationals last year, at 361,000 people, up from 301,000 in 2021.
This increase is mainly attributed to people arriving as dependants, up from 41,000 in 2021 to 85,000 in 2022.
There is a “range of different factors” that may be influencing the increase in people arriving to study, including the new graduate visa route, where students can apply to work in the UK for up to three years after completing their studies, the ONS said.
The second-largest proportion of non-EU immigration in 2022 was people arriving on work-related visas (25%), at 235,000 people, up from 137,000 in 2021.
People coming to the UK on humanitarian routes, such as the Ukraine and Hong Kong resettlement schemes, accounted for 19% of non-EU immigration at 172,000 people, up year-on-year from 57,000.
The remainder of the total was made up of people arriving for asylum (8%), on family visas (6%) and for other reasons (3%).
People arriving in the UK after crossing the English Channel on small boats are included in the migration figures only if they have claimed asylum, the ONS added.
Speaking in the Commons, Immigration minister Robert Jenrick (above) said: “These particularly high figures are in large part due to temporary and exceptional factors such as the UK’s Ukraine and Hong Kong BNO schemes.”
He went on: “These schemes command broad support from the British public and we were right to introduce them.
“The Government remains committed to reducing overall net migration to sustainable levels. That is a solemn promise we made to the British public in our manifesto, and we are unwavering in our determination to deliver it.”
Labour’s shadow home secretary Yvette Cooper told the Commons: “Today’s extraordinary figures, including doubling the number of work visas since the pandemic, show that the Conservatives have no plan and no grip on immigration.”
She went on: “Yet where is the Home Secretary who is in charge of these policies? She’s gone to ground, there are reports she is not even going to do media, she has not come to this House, she is in internal meetings, presumably more private courses arranged by the civil service.
“What is the point of her?”