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UK net migration hits record high of 606,000 despite government pledges

UK net migration hits record high of 606,000 despite government pledges

UK Home Secretary Suella Braverman attends the weekly government cabinet meeting at 10 Downing Street on May 23, 2023 in London, England.

Leon Neal | Getty Images News | Getty Images

LONDON — U.K. net migration hit a record high of 606,000 in 2022, despite government pledges to reduce the figure.

Data published Thursday by the country’s national statistics office showed that non-EU nationals accounted for 925,000 long-term arrivals, while 151,000 were from the European Union and 88,000 were British.

Total emigration from the U.K. was 557,000, of which 202,000 were EU nationals — meaning more people from the bloc left than arrived. The share of EU nationals coming to the U.K. was down from 42% in 2019, just before the U.K. officially left the EU, to 13%. 

Reducing net migration was a pledge in the ruling Conservative party’s election manifesto in 2019, when the figure was 226,000. The previous figures, out in November, showed net migration was at 504,000 in the year to June.

The government has stressed that many recent arrivals are refugees from Ukraine, Afghanistan and Hong Kong. The proportion of people arriving via humanitarian routes increased from 9% to 19% in 2022, compared to the year before.

Legal migration is a contentious issue within the Conservative party. It comes as the government seeks to boost tepid economic growth and ease tightness in the labor market, which is causing challenges for businesses and driving up wages at a time of sky-high inflation.

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak has said he wants net migration below 500,000, around the level it was when he took office last fall.

However, he has clashed with his more hardline interior minister, Suella Braverman, over some proposed measures to bring down the numbers. Sunak has also stressed that migrant workers are essential to sectors including the National Health Service.

In a speech earlier this month, Braverman said: “It’s not xenophobic to say that mass and rapid migration is unsustainable in terms of housing supply, service, and community relations.” She also said Britons should be filling job roles experiencing shortages, such as lorry drivers, butchers and fruit pickers.

New restrictions

On Tuesday, Braverman’s department announced restrictions on student visas, the largest source of migration to the U.K. Only post-graduate research students will be able to bring family members with them to the country under the new rules.

The Home Office also said it would ban people “from using a student…

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