Net immigration to Britain remains steady at 250,000

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Net migration to Britain remained steady at 250,000 in the year to last June, official figures showed yesterday.

The number of people arriving in the country, less the number of people leaving, has remained steady since it peaked at 255,000 in the year to September 2010, but is up from 235,000 in the year to June 2010, the Office for National Statistics (ONS) said.

The Government has pledged to cut net migration to the tens of thousands by 2015.

Long-term immigration to the UK in the 12 months to June last year was 593,000, up from 582,000 in the year to June 2010, estimated figures published by the ONS showed.

And long-term emigration from the UK in the same period was 343,000, similar to the 347,000 seen in the year to June 2010.

Study remains the most common reason for migrating to the UK, with 242,000 students coming in the year to June 2011.

But the number of people leaving the UK came down to 343,000 from a peak of 427,000 in 2008, the ONS said.

The figures also showed a record 170,000 people came to the UK from so-called New Commonwealth countries such as India and Pakistan, with two-thirds of these coming for study alone.

Asylum applications rose 11 per cent last year to 19,804, compared with 17,916 in 2010, other figures published yesterday by the Home Office showed.

The figures for every quarter last year were higher than 12 months earlier, mainly due to an increase in applications from Pakistan, Libya and Iran, officials said.

And the number of people removed or departing voluntarily from the UK last year fell 13 per cent to 52,526 from 60,244 during 2010.

Immigration Minister Damian Green said: “Our reforms are starting to take effect. Home Office figures from the second half of last year show a significant decrease in the number of student and work visas issued, an early indicator for the long-term direction of net migration.

“Net migration remains too high but, as the ONS states, it is now steady, having fallen from a recent peak in the year to September 2010.

“This Government remains committed to bringing net migration down from the hundreds of thousands to the tens of thousands over the course of this Parliament.”

The ONS figures cover only the first year of the coalition Government in office.

Matt Cavanagh, associate director of the Institute for Public Policy Research think-tank, said: “Reducing immigration is a legitimate goal, but politicians should be wary of promising what they can’t deliver.

“There is also a risk that ministers will be tempted to take more extreme measures in pursuit of their elusive target, including on those areas of immigration which are most important to our economy, and which surveys show the public are less bothered about, including skilled workers and overseas students.”