Net migration to Britain jumps 20pc
London, August 26, 2010
Net migration to Britain jumped 20 per cent in 2009 but the increase was largely due to a fall in the number of UK citizens moving abroad, the Home Office said on Thursday.
The new coalition government, in power since May, plans a series of measures to cut the number of foreign workers coming to Britain, saying immigration levels were too high under the previous Labour government.
In an annual report, the Home Office said net migration was 196,000 in 2009 compared with 163,000 in 2008.
Its breakdown shows that actual long-term immigration fell by 23,000 on the year, while emigration of British citizens fell even more, leading to a rise in the net figure.
In the run-up to the May election, Prime Minister David Cameron took a tough line of immigration, promising to bring annual net migration to "tens of thousands".
His tough line was popular with voters, but has drawn criticism from business groups who say a rigid cap could harm Britain's economic recovery by making it harder for companies to hire the talent they need.
The Liberal Democrats, Cameron's junior coalition partners, also attacked Cameron's proposals in the run-up to the vote, but later agreed to back the policy as part of a coalition deal.
In July, Britain enforced a temporary cap on the number of skilled non-EU immigrants allowed to enter the country, ahead of a permanent limit to be introduced next April.
The government is specifically targeting non-EU immigration because it represents the largest share of economic migrants.
Home Secretary Theresa May has said that net migration was negative through the 1970s and early 1980s and remained broadly in balance through the remainder of the 1980s and 1990s, but grew significantly after Labour took power in 1997.
In the report, the Home Office also said the number of visas issued to students rose 35 per cent to 362,015 in the year to June.
The number of people granted citizenship rose 13 per cent to 197,955 in the year to end-June 2010 compared to the previous year. – Reuters