Net migration soars to record high of 606,000 despite government pledge to bring numbers down

25 May 2023, 09:37 | Updated: 25 May 2023, 10:30

The government is facing criticism over the rise in immigration despite a manifesto pledge to bring the numbers down
The government is facing criticism over the rise in immigration despite a manifesto pledge to bring the numbers down. Picture: Alamy

By Asher McShane

Net migration to the UK reached 606,000 in 2022, according to the latest official figures - a record number of arrivals to the country.

1.2 million people arrived in the UK last year intending to stay for a year or more and 557,000 emigrated, adding 606,000 to the UK population.

The figure is up from 504,000 in the 12 months to June last year.

The ONS said factors contributing to relatively high levels of immigration over the past 18 months include people coming to the UK from non-EU countries for work, study, and for humanitarian purposes, including those arriving from Ukraine and Hong Kong.

Read more: Overseas students banned from bringing family to UK as they ‘make limited contribution to the economy’

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Rishi Sunak has already refused to commit to Boris Johnson’s manifesto pledge
Rishi Sunak has already refused to commit to Boris Johnson’s manifesto pledge. Picture: Alamy

Ahead of the release of the figures, Stephen Kinnock criticised the government, telling LBC : "It will say that they've lost control of the issue. They have failed to have a strategy in place for our local labour market, and as a result of that, employers are being forced to reach for overseas immigration.

"We need a much more balanced approach, ensuring that we have the immigration we need of course, but that there's much more opportunity for skills, productivity training, workforce planning to get our economy firing on all cylinders again."

In recent days Rishi Sunak has attempted to distance himself from the Tories’ election pledge to reduce net migration.

Flying to the G7 summit in Japan earlier this month the PM was asked whether he stood by the manifesto pledge to bring the numbers down. Rishi Sunak pointed the finger at his predecessors in No10, saying only: “I've inherited some numbers, I want to bring the numbers down".

There were 45,755 people detected arriving  to the UK by small boats in 2022
There were 45,755 people detected arriving to the UK by small boats in 2022. Picture: Alamy

The PM added: "I've said I do want to bring legal migration down. I think illegal migration is undoubtedly the country's priority, and you can see all the work I'm putting into that.”

The record levels of net migration are down to a "series of unprecedented world events throughout 2022 and the lifting of restrictions following the coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic", the ONS said.

The director of the Centre for International Migration at the ONS said numbers arriving on humanitarian routes increased over the 12-month period.

Jay Lindop said: "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. For the first time since using our new methods to measure migration, we have also included asylum seekers in our estimates, with around 1 in 12 non-EU migrants coming via this route.

"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."

Rishi Sunak has already refused to commit to Boris Johnson’s manifesto pledge to bring down overall immigration levels. He says he wants immigration to fall but failed to stick to the pledge made by the Conservatives at the last general election.

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