PA – November 24, 2011
The Office for National Statistics said that net migration in 2010 was 252,000 – the highest calendar year figure on record.
The ONS said that while immigration was steady at 591,000, the rise in the net figure was due to a fall in the number of people leaving the country.
In all, 339,000 people emigrated from the UK – the lowest level of emigration since 2001.
Emigration by non-British citizens also fell to 203,000 from a peak of 255,000 in 2008.
The ONS said fewer people were leaving the country from the UK for work-related reasons.
Provisional figures for the 12 months to March 2011 show 174,000 left due to work – the lowest figure for five years.
The main reason for immigration into the UK continued to be to study – which rose from 211,000 in 2009 to 238,000 last year.
Immigration Minister Damian Green insisted that the Government remained committed to reducing net migration to the “tens of thousands” during the course of the current parliament.
He said that after peaking in September last year, the numbers had started to come down.
“These figures show that the Government was right to take swift action to overhaul the immigration system,” he said.
“Latest quarterly figures show a decrease in the number of student and work visas issued compared to a year earlier – an early sign that our policies are starting to take effect.
“The latest net migration figures are also encouraging, showing a fall since the recent peak in September 2010, but we are clear there is much more to be done.”
Answering questions on the migration statistics following a speech on race relations in south London, Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg said people wanted “an immigration system that is tough on abuses – and particularly tough on illegal immigration – but also fair for people who want to make a contribution to this country”.
He added: “When you look at net figures – and I haven’t looked at them in depth yet – you need to work out how many people are leaving as well as how many are coming in and settling.
“We are doing a number of things. We are closing a lot of loopholes which have been abused in the past, installing much better checks on our borders so we know who is coming in and who’s going out.
“This is not a problem that you solve overnight. I think people are quite rightly very, very concerned that they can have confidence in the integrity of ourimmigration system and that’s what the coalition Government is determined to demonstrate.”
Last year’s record high compares with total net migration of 198,000 in 2009.
The previous high for a calendar year was 245,000 in 2004 – although mid-year data for the 12 months to June 2005 reached 260,000.
Provisional figures for the 12 months to March 2011, however, offered some comfort to ministers, dropping to 245,000.
It compares with the peak of 255,000 in the 12 months to September 2010.
However Home Office figures also released today showed a sharp drop in the numbers of failed asylum seekers and other illegal migrants leaving the country.
In the three months to September 2011, 13,253 were removed or departed voluntarily – a 13% drop on the 15,261 who left in the same period last year.
At the same time asylum application were up 9% – from 4,276 in the third quarter of last year to 4,912.
The Home Office said the main sources of increase were applications from people coming from Pakistan, Iran and Syria.
Downing Street said Prime Minister David Cameron remained committed to reducing immigration from the hundreds of thousands to the tens of thousands.
Asked whether he thought it could be done, Mr Cameron’s official spokesman said: “Yes, he does, but clearly that process is going to take some time.”
The Government was “taking action across the board”, he said, adding: “We will continue with that work.”