Immigration figures being analyzed to project a different picture

`It is scaremongering’: MRN

2nd September 2010: A week after the Office for National Statistics released its quarterly immigration figures for 2009, migrant organisations and analysts are insisting a very different picture was being projected to show a broad leap in immigration to the UK. It was scaremongering, and was sending a wrong message.


Ruth Grove-White, Policy Officer with Migrants’ Rights Network which is working for the rights of all migrants, is insisting a closer look at the figures indicates this may all be a storm in a teacup.
Ruth is responsible for developing the network’s responses to Government policy and legislation, producing information bulletins and supporting the Director in representing the organisation. She graduated with an MSc in Political Sociology from the London School of Economics in 2004.
She has asserted the figures show that net long-term immigration to the UK rose by 20 per cent from 163,000 in 2008, to 196,000 in 2009. This has been spun in media as indicating an overall ‘jump in immigration’ to the UK. This is not only scaremongering, but is sending a message that is just plain wrong.
The reason, she explains, is that the increase last year was in the level of ‘net immigration’, not in immigration on its own.

The net immigration figure calculates the difference between the total number of people coming into the UK (immigration) and the number leaving the country (emigration).

As pointed out by the Institute for Public Policy Research, the rise in net immigration in 2009 was not due to an increase in the number of people entering the UK – in fact this figure dropped by 4 per cent from last year.

Rather, the increase in net immigration was primarily caused by a drop in the number of Brits leaving the UK (emigration overall was down by 13 per cent from last year). Emigration is yet another aspect of international migration which subsequent British governments – always keen to overstate their ability to control immigration – have no control over whatsoever.

Analysis of the immigration figures shows that they paint a very different picture to that of a broad ‘leap’ in immigration to the UK. Asylum applications and economic immigration under the Points Based System both dropped last year.

Immigration from within Europe broadly stayed at the same level as in 2008. The only area where there was a significant increase in applications was under the student route where visas granted went up by 23 per cent from 2008.

Of course this has the red tops baying for tighter controls over student visas, but the vast majority of these applications are likely to be perfectly legitimate. It is also worth reflecting that 2009 saw record levels of university intake for home students in the UK, explained by the limited employment opportunities available in the economic downturn.

Perhaps the overall message to be drawn from these statistics is that popular excitement about the level of immigration to the UK risks getting confused about the specific trends behind the figures.

The coalition government will be disappointed that the steady decline in net immigration, on which they have made political commitments, has not continued as expected. But it would be a mistake to respond to the knee jerk analysis in much of the press with anything but skepticism, she concludes


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