UK’s net migration at record high – all you need to know

Net migration to the UK has reached a record level (PA)
Net migration to the UK has reached a record level (PA)

A series of unprecedented world events including the war in Ukraine and people arriving to the UK from Hong Kong under resettlement schemes are said to have contributed to the latest record net migration figures.

Here, the PA news agency takes a look at the latest situation.

– What is net migration currently?

The latest figures, compiled by the Office for National Statistics (ONS), are for the period to December 2022.

They show that net migration – the difference between the number of people moving to the UK and the number leaving – was 606,000 last year.

The figure for 2021 was 488,000.

A total of 1.2 million people are likely to have migrated to the UK in 2022, the ONS said, while 557,000 are estimated to have migrated from the UK in the same period.

– Are the figures what we had been expecting?

They are lower than some numbers that had been predicted in the days before the official statistics were published.

Analysis by the Centre for Policy Studies suggested net migration could have hit between 700,000 and 997,000 in 2022.

However, the 606,000 figure is substantially higher than the 226,000 level when the 2019 Conservative Party manifesto promised “overall numbers will come down” after the introduction of post-Brexit border controls.

– Why have the numbers gone up?

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak said the figures are too high but not out of control (Jordan Pettitt/PA)
Prime Minister Rishi Sunak said the figures are too high but not out of control (PA)

There is no single cause for the rise.

Jay Lindop, ONS director of the centre for international migration, said a series of “unprecedented world events throughout 2022”, together with the lifting of restrictions after the pandemic, led to the record figure.

People are coming to the UK for a range of reasons, with many moving here for work and study, the ONS said.

Although there are signs overseas students who first arrived for study reasons in 2021 are now starting to leave, the statistics body added.

Others coming to the UK have been arriving under the Ukraine and Hong Kong resettlement schemes, which the ONS described as “unique events”.

But the ONS said growth has slowed over recent quarters, “potentially demonstrating the temporary nature of these impacts”.

The Migration Observatory at the University of Oxford said several factors came into play at once –  the war in Ukraine, a boom in international student recruitment and high demand for health and care workers.

– Will the figures keep  rising?

It is difficult to predict future migration patterns due to “surprising developments” that can disrupt them, the director of the migration observatory said.

Madeleine Sumption referenced the fact that a few years ago no forecasts suggested migration would rise above 500,000, “not least because they did not anticipate the war in Ukraine”.

She added: “With that caveat, there is no reason to assume that net migration would remain this high indefinitely.”

– What is the Prime Minister saying?

Rishi Sunak has described the current level as “too high” but said they are not out of control.

Appearing on ITV’s This Morning shortly after the figures were published, he said: “Numbers are too high, it’s as simple as that.

“And I want to bring them down.”

He said measures put in place this week to prevent overseas students bringing dependants with them “are significant” and will bring levels down over time.

On Tuesday, the Government said overseas students will be banned from bringing dependants to the UK from January 2024, although the change will not apply to those on postgraduate research programmes.

Asked if immigration is out of control, Mr Sunak said: “Well, no, I think the numbers are just too high.”