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Net migration rises, creating challenges for Government target

28 Nov 2013

New data released today by the Office for National Statistics (ONS) shows estimated net migration increased to 182,000 in the year to June 2013 from 167,000 in the same period last year, which – when coupled with other factors – makes it look increasingly difficult for the government to reduce net migration to the “tens of thousands” by the end of this parliament, The Migration Observatory at the University of Oxford said today.

This still leaves estimated net migration at 70,000 lower than its peak of 252,000 in the year to September 2010. While the estimate is higher than the previous year, the increase is not statistically significant.

The rise in the estimated net migration figure has been driven, in particular, by the lowest levels of emigration from the UK since 2001. The government has fewer ways of controlling levels of emigration than immigration. Another important factor is increasing EU immigration – while immigration overall has declined by 14,000 year on year this is largely because of a fall in immigration of non-EU nationals, which dropped by an estimated 40,000 – in the same period EU immigration rose by an estimated 25,000 while immigration of British nationals remained static.

Improving economic forecasts for the UK and potentially increased EU migration from Romania and Bulgaria are both likely to contribute to increased net migration. Immigration for work reasons has over-taken study as the most common reason for migrants to come to the UK for the first time since 2009.

The Migration Observatory calculated in 2011 that the government’s own assessments of the potential impacts of changes to policies to reduce non-EU immigration suggest that 2015’s “tens of thousands” target would be missed by more than 65,000.

Most of the anticipated impacts from these policy changes – which were designed to reduce work, family and student immigration from outside the EU – have already been achieved, meaning that without further changes these policies are not expected to reduce immigration further.

Dr Scott Blinder, Acting Director of the Migration Observatory at Oxford University said: “The level of net migration announced today, when considered in the context of improving economic forecasts for the UK, potentially increased EU migration from Romania and Bulgaria and the government’s own assessments of the potential impacts of changes to policies to reduce non-EU immigration provides the Government with a significant hurdle to overcome if it is to reach the tens of thousands target by the end of this parliament.”

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