MORE immigration from crisis-hit eurozone countries and a drop in people leaving the UK has pushed the Government’s migration target further out of reach.
As David Cameron and Theresa May unveil a range of measures aimed at deterring immigration to the UK, official figures have now revealed the first annual increase in the net flow of migrants to the country for two years.
While overall immigration decreased, statisticians yesterday revealed a “statistically significant” increase in citizens arriving for work from the so-called “EU15” nations – which include Portugal, Ireland, Italy, Greece and Spain.
Rising to 182,000 in the year to June, from 167,000 the previous year, net migration figures are moving further away from the Government hopes to reduce the numbers to fewer than 100,000 before the next election in May 2015.
Immigration Minister Mark Harper said net migration was still down by nearly a third since its peak in 2010 and insisted the Government was working hard to bring it down further.
However migration experts warned it was looking “increasingly difficult” for the Prime Minister and Home Secretary to hit their goal to bring the net flow down to the tens of thousands, while Labour said the fresh figures had exposed the Government’s “hollow claims”.
Dr Scott Blinder, acting director of the Migration Observatory at the University of Oxford, 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.”
Some 503,000 people immigrated to the UK in the year ending June, compared with the 517,000 people who arrived during the previous year, the Office for National Statistics (ONS said).
Immigration from the European Union (EU) increased to 183,000 in the year ending June, the ONS said, up from 158,000 the previous year.
Southern European economies were behind the increase in EU immigration, the ONS added.
A batch of statistics from the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) on the level of National Insurance numbers given to non-UK nationals also revealed a surge from Mediterranean countries.
The number of people coming to work in the UK from Spain rose by 40 per cent to 49,800 in the year to September, the DWP figures showed, while the numbers from Italy increased by 52 per cent to 39,400, from Portugal by 45 per cent to 28,300 and from Greece by 31 per cent to 9,300.
Shadow Immigration Minister David Hanson said: “David Cameron and Theresa May are failing to meet their own target.
“They promised ‘no ifs, no buts’ that they would meet their target of net migration in the tens of thousands by the election. Instead net migration is going up and its higher this year than 12 months ago. These figures expose the massive gap between the rhetoric and the reality of Tory immigration policy. Theresa May has boasted repeatedly that net migration was falling and her target would be met. Now those hollow claims have been completely exposed.”
Immigration from outside the European Union (EU) saw a “statistically significant” drop to 242,000 in the year to June, from 282,000 the previous year.
Meanwhile, emigration dropped to its lowest level since 2001 as 320,000 emigrants left the country in the year to June, down from the 349,000 the previous year.