UK net migration hits all-time record at 504,000

UK net migration hits all-time record at 504,000

UK net migration hit 504,000 in the year to June – the highest figure ever recorded, The Office for National Statistics (ONS) estimates.

The rise is driven by people arriving legally from outside the EU and the resumption of post-pandemic travel.

Reception of Afghan and Ukrainian refugees and people from Hong Kong are other factors.

The government has promised to cut net migration – the difference between the numbers entering and leaving the UK.

Today’s figures will intensify debates over the role of overseas workers into the UK economy and wider labour market – weeks after Home Secretary Suella Braverman said she wanted to resurrect a repeatedly missed government target to reduce net migration to below 100,000.

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That aim, set by former prime minister David Cameron and supported by Theresa May, was dropped by Boris Johnson who said he would reduce the level while ensuring businesses had access to the skills they needed.

Downing Street insisted Rishi Sunak wants to bring overall immigration levels down.

The prime minister’s official spokesman said: “There are some unprecedented and unique circumstances which are having a significant impact on these statistics.

“The prime minister has said he wants net migration to reduce, he has not put a specific timeframe on that.”

Labour’s shadow justice minister Ellie Reeves told BBC Politics Live the figures were “pretty shocking” and a sign the government had “completely lost control over who was coming here”.

She said it had “failed to meet any of its own targets” and the system was a “complete mess”.

The government needed to look at where there were skills shortages and allow migration to fill those gaps, while training up the domestic workforce, added the Labour spokeswoman.

Overall, an estimated 1.1m people migrated to the UK in the year to June. After subtracting those who emigrated, the UK population has risen by 504,000 – the net migration total.

Asylum applications, including those arriving in small boats over the English Channel, reached 73,000 in the year to September – a figure that underlines that those migrants represent a very small proportion of all those who arrive in the country in any given period.

The rise in migration has been influenced by people from outside the European Union – including 170,000 people from Ukraine and 76,000 from Hong Kong under a scheme to resettle people who count as British citizens.

Some 277,000 people came to study – with the rate of student visas almost doubling on the previous year.