Prime Minister Rishi Sunak has made curbing immigration a key policy of his administration
Net migration to the United Kingdom hit a record high in 2022 and has shown no sign of easing since, the UK’s Office of National Statistics (ONS) has revealed. The unexpectedly high figures put renewed pressure on Prime Minister Rishi Sunak, who has vowed to reduce the number of people entering the country, ahead of a general election expected next year.
However, ONS data made public on Thursday likely made for grim reading in Downing Street as it reveals that the UK recorded an estimated net migration total of 745,000 for 2022. Net migration is defined by the difference between the number of immigrants entering a country and emigrants leaving it.
The total sets a new UK record and is 139,000 higher than previous estimates, the ONS said. It added that the net migration total up to June 2023 was 672,000 – an increase of about 65,000 from 2022.
A spokesperson for Sunak’s office said on Thursday that the ONS totals are “far too high.”
The newly-released figures represent the latest blow to its key immigration and asylum pledges. Earlier this month, a court ruled that Sunak’s flagship ‘Stop the Boats’ policy, through which asylum seekers and others arriving in the UK by illegal means would be deported to Rwanda, was unlawful.
Sunak has said that his immigration policies are in response to voter concerns about a strain on housing and other public resources.
The UK, which formally severed ties with the European Union (EU) in January 2020, is now receiving the majority of its immigrants from non-EU countries, the ONS said. Many of the migrants arriving legally in the UK are filling work shortages, such as in the healthcare sector. The figures also showed high levels of non-EU students arriving into the UK.
“Today’s record migration stats show we’ve let in an extra million people in just two years, a population equivalent to Birmingham,” Sunak’s former Home Secretary Suella Braverman, sacked by Sunak last week, wrote on X (formerly Twitter) on Thursday.
Braverman added that the ONS data is a “slap in the face to the British public who have voted to control and reduce migration at every opportunity” and that “Brexit gave us the tools. It’s time to use them.”
While immigration is expected to be a pressing topic at the polls, a date for the next general election has not yet been announced. However, UK law mandates that it must take place before January 28, 2025.
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