Sanwar Ali comment:
The high levels of UK immigration confirm that there are very serious skills shortages in the UK, and also confirms the great success that UK higher educational institutions have had in attracting overseas students on Tier 4 visas. A technologically advanced major economy like the UK needs a certain level of immigration to function and flourish. Robotics and Artificial Intelligence has not yet reached the stage that migrants can be completely replaced with technology (and indeed others!). Priti Patel the Home Secretary has suggested that automation may be a way forward.
This also suggests that claims by Boris Johnson and Priti Patel that the Conservative Government will be able to greatly reduce levels of immigration into the UK cannot be taken too seriously. The repeated claims by a previous Conservative Prime Minister David Cameron and others that net migration will be brought down to the “tens of thousands” is now being treated as a bit of a joke.
According to the Office for National Statistics (ONS), non-EU immigration to the UK has hit its highest level since records began in 1975. The rise in non-EU immigration to the UK has been attributed to an increase in the number of Tier 4 visas issued to international students, especially Indians, who received 37,500 student visas in 2019, an increase of 93% from 2018.
ONS data shows that the number of people arriving in the UK from outside the EU in the year ending September 2019, increased to 379,000, surpassing the previous high of 370,000 in 2004. The data also shows that the number of people granted Tier 4 visas exceeded the number of people issued Tier 2 work visas for the first time ever.
Rise in number of Chinese and Indian nationals issued UK Tier 4 visas
Chinese nationals account for nearly a third of non-EU immigrants arriving in the UK in the year ending September 2019, with almost 120,000 issued with a UK visa, closely followed by international students from India.
The rise in the number of Tier 4 visas issued to non-EU students comes after the UK government scrapped the cap on university student numbers in 2015/16, while tuition fees were increased to £9,250 a year for UK undergraduates.
Director at Oxford University’s Migration Observatory, Madeleine Sumption, said that despite Britain losing its market share of Chinese students to Australia and Canada, the number coming to the UK to study continues to increase.
Sumption said: “This is a global phenomenon that China has been sending more students overseas than it did in the past. We have seen a pretty steady increase in the last 15 years.”
Non-EU immigration highest since records began in 1975
Records for non-EU immigration to the UK only date back to 1975, the year in which the UK held its first referendum on EEC membership. That year, 93,000 people from outside the EU arrived in the country, with just 18,000 heading to Britain from EU nations.
Of the 228,000 Tier 4 visas issued, Chinese citizens accounted for half who came to study in the UK, compared with the 213,000 who came to the UK on Tier 2 visas to work.
Meanwhile, net non-EU migration figures – which represent the difference between those arriving and those leaving the UK – also saw an increase in the year ending September 2019, reaching its highest level since 2004, having risen to 250,000, up from 224,000 in September 2018.
Net EU migration on the other hand has seen a steady decline following the EU referendum in 2016. Numbers dropped to 64,000, representing the lowest figure since 2004 and a huge drop from an annual peak of more than 200,000 in the three years leading up to Britain’s vote to leave the EU.
Based on the increase in non-EU immigration numbers and the drop in EU migration to the UK, overall net migration figures stood at 240,000 in the year ending September 2019.
Claims from Government that will be “Taking back control of UK borders”
UK immigration minister, Kevin Foster, said: “These figures show the importance of taking back control of our borders. Our new points-based immigration system will bring overall migration numbers down, while ensuring we continue to welcome the brightest and the best from around the globe including scientists, innovators and academics.”
The UK’s new, points-based immigration system is set to officially launch on 1 January, 2021 following the end of the Brexit transitional period. The new system is expected to make it easier for highly skilled foreign nationals to live and work in the UK, irrespective of which country they’re from, while blocking so-called low-skilled migrants.
Madeleine Sumption stated that the continuous decline in net EU migration numbers contradicted claims that the UK could face an influx of EU migrants prior to the introduction of the government’s new points-based system.
Ms Sumption said: “There was a lot of discussion about whether there would be a surge of EU people coming here to get in before the door closes. From the statistics, we don’t see that at all.”
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