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By Sanwar Ali:
5. Brexit's Influence on Migration
6. Conservative Party Concerns
As expected, the United Kingdom has recently seen a record number of immigrants entering the country. The latest figures from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) reveal that net migration into the UK reached an all-time high in 2022. This surge in immigration has been criticised by many within the Conservative Party. This article provides a comprehensive analysis of the latest immigration figures, the reasons behind this unprecedented migration wave, and the political implications for the UK.
Record Immigration Levels: Key Findings
According to the ONS data, the overall migration into the UK for 2022 was 606,000, representing a 24% increase from the previous high of 488,000 in 2021. Total long-term immigration was estimated at about 1.2 million in 2022, while emigration stood at 557,000.
The rise in immigration levels has primarily been driven by people from outside the EU entering the UK to study, work, or escape conflict or oppression. Non-EU arrivals included 361,000 students and their families, 235,000 people coming for work-related reasons, 172,000 coming on humanitarian schemes from countries like Ukraine, Hong Kong, and Afghanistan, and 76,000 people claiming asylum.
Student Visa Impact
In 2022, 361,000 people arrived in the UK on study-related visas, a significant increase from 301,000 in 2021. This rise is attributed to the lifting of travel restrictions and the new Graduate visa route, which allows international students to work in the UK for up to three years after completing their studies. The increase in visa grants for dependents from countries such as Nigeria and India has also contributed to this surge in student immigration.
Work Visas and Sponsor Licences
Work-related visas made up 25% of non-EU long-term immigration in 2022, with 235,000 arrivals compared to 137,000 in 2021. The growth in long-term sponsored work visas can be attributed to the introduction of the "Skilled Worker" and "Skilled Worker - Health and Care" visas in 2020. The increase in visas granted to dependents was also linked to an increase in visas granted to dependents of "Skilled Workers" and "Skilled Workers - Health and Care".
Brexit's Influence on Migration
Contrary to expectations, Brexit has not led to a reduction in immigration. The net migration figures reveal that the numbers are more than double the levels recorded in 2019, when the Conservative Party pledged to reduce immigration in its election manifesto. This is particularly embarrassing for the arch-Brexiters, who argued that leaving the EU would allow them to take control of UK borders.
Conservative Party Concerns
Tory MPs have warned of voter anger and frustration at the "unsustainable" levels of net migration. The figures have forced Rishi Sunak, the Prime Minister, to concede that the numbers should come down. Yvette Cooper, the shadow home secretary, has accused Sunak of losing control, stating that the Conservatives' chaotic approach has led to a record high in the asylum backlog and a significant increase in work visas.
Sources of Immigration: Top Countries
The humanitarian crisis in Ukraine has led to a significant influx of Ukrainian immigrants into the UK. In 2022, 114,000 Ukrainians arrived in the UK on humanitarian visas, contributing to the overall increase in non-EU immigration.
Indian nationals accounted for a significant portion of the increase in study-related visas granted in 2022. The popularity of the new Graduate visa route and the increase in visas granted to dependents have attracted more Indian students to the UK.
The UK has also seen a considerable number of immigrants from Hong Kong, with 52,000 arriving on British nationals (overseas) (BN(O)) visas in 2022. This has contributed to the overall increase in non-EU immigration.
Asylum Seekers and Humanitarian Routes
In 2022, people arriving on humanitarian routes, such as Ukrainian schemes, British nationals (overseas) (BN(O)), and resettlement schemes, accounted for 19% of non-EU long-term immigration, with 172,000 arrivals. People claiming asylum made up 8% of non-EU immigration, with 76,000 arrivals in 2022, a significant increase from 53,000 in 2021.
Implications for the UK Economy
The record immigration levels has been somewhat controversial amongst some people. While the influx of skilled workers and students can contribute to the country's economic growth, some people have been concerned about the impact of mass migration on housing, and infrastructure.
There is an argument that the UK has a particular responsibility to be seen to be "doing the right thing" when it comes to the Ukraine and Hong Kong. Letting in large numbers of refugees, especially given the circumstances, is the right thing to do. At the Yalta Conference in February 1945, the UK, the US and the Soviet Union agreed that much of Europe would be controlled by the Soviet Union. This led to shocking atrocities committed against Ukrainians and others by the Soviet Union.
The UK benefitted when Hong Kong was a colony for more than 150 years. In 1997 Hong Kong was given to the communist Chinese Government. Extremely serious human rights abuses have occurred in Hong Kong under the Chinese Government.
The UK's record net migration levels have raised concerns within the Conservative Party. It had been promised by Brexiteers, many from the Conservative Party that leaving the EU would lead to less immigration. It seems the opposite has happened. The increase in student visas, work visas, and humanitarian routes have contributed to this unprecedented migration wave. The Conservative government is facing increasing pressure from its own MPs to reduce immigration.
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