25 May 2023

Record net migration stats highlight ‘dilemmas of control’ for Government and public alike

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British Future's Director Sunder Katwala responds to the publication of record new net migration statistics.

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Record net migration figures highlight the ‘dilemmas of control,’ for the Government and for the public, British Future said today as new immigration statistics were released.

Sunder Katwala, Director of British Future, said:

“These record net migration figures show the dilemmas of control – for the Government and for the public too.

“Almost everyone wanted us to give homes to the 200,000 Ukrainians who came here fleeing the war. But these record figures reflect policy choices too. Rishi Sunak and Suella Braverman are arguing over how to balance the gains for the NHS, the universities, and the economy versus the political pains of how much immigration that all adds up to.

“The Government has control over immigration policy so they could decide to cut numbers. But any plan to significantly reduce net migration would mean cutting flows that the British public think makes a positive contribution.”

Net migration, the difference between the number of people leaving and those coming to UK, was 606,000 last year – the highest ever, though lower than estimates circulated in recent weeks. Total long-term immigration was estimated at around 1.2 million in 2022, and emigration was 557,000. Most of the immigration is from outside the EU, with 179,000 people coming for work; 172,000 through special humanitarian routes such as those for Ukrainians and Hong Kongers fleeing war and repression; 208,000 for study (including dependents); 73,000 people seeking asylum and 28,000 through family reunion and other visa routes.

The most recent Ipsos/British Future Immigration Attitudes Tracker found that more people feel immigration has had a positive effect on Britain (46%) than a negative effect (29%). When the tracker survey was first conducted in February 2015, by comparison, it found only 35% were positive while 41% were negative.

Support for reducing immigration remains at its lowest level since the tracker survey began in 2015. Four in ten people (42%) would prefer immigration to be reduced, 26% that it stays the same and 24% that it increases.

Focaldata research for British Future found that the majority of the public (53%) agree that “Immigrants’ skills and labour are necessary to help Britain’s economic recovery,” while only 23% agreed that “Immigration to Britain will damage economic recovery by taking away jobs from people already living here.” When British Future had first asked that question a decade ago in 2012, the findings were reversed: 55% then felt that immigration would damage economic recovery while only 24% agreed that immigration would help the economy.

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