Steve Doughty – Daily Mail May 25, 2012
Immigration is at record highs despite Coalition promises to slash the number of arrivals.
Figures released yesterday show that net migration in the first nine months of last year stood at 252,000 – the second highest level ever.
The total, which is the number moving here less those going abroad, is higher than in the year before David Cameron took power.
Last night ministers pointed out that the number of work and student visas is falling and this is not yet reflected in the figures.
The 252,000 mark for net migration has been topped only once, when it reached 255,000 in the year to September 2010.
In the first nine months of last year, 590,000 long-term migrants arrived in Britain – a level that has remained steady since 2004, when Britain opened the doors to workers from Eastern Europe.
Net migration was so high because only 338,000 left the country. This compares with figures of 400,000-plus before the financial crash.
Immigration minister Damian Green said future figures would reflect a much stricter visa regime.
‘Our tough new rules are now making a real difference with a record 62 per cent drop in student visas in the first quarter of 2012, and overall falls in work visas, family numbers and people settling,’ he added.
‘As these policies start to bite we are seeing an end to the years when net migration was consistently on the rise.
But the hangover from the old system of weak controls means it is still too high and we will continue our programme of reforms to bring net migration down from the hundreds of thousands to the tens of thousands.’
But Sir Andrew Green of the MigrationWatch pressure group said: ‘You cannot expect to repair 15 years of mismanagement in 15 months, but it is worrying news that net migration is still running at a quarter of a million a year.
‘There is no sign of any reduction from the huge numbers that developed under Labour.
‘The problem is that non-EU migrants are simply not leaving. It is time the Lib Dems understood the extent of public concern, including among 75 per cent of their own supporters.
‘The Coalition must now take tough measures to reduce this unacceptable scale of immigration.’
Home Secretary Theresa May is preparing regulations to say that workers who come to Britain from abroad must go home after five years unless they earn an above average salary, with the current suggested figure being £35,000.
But Business Secretary Vince Cable is among those who oppose the curbs on the grounds they will affect businesses, and ministers have yet to say how they will force migrants home.
The Institute for Public Policy Research, a left-leaning think-tank, said the Government had made no progress toward its target of net migration of less than 100,000.
Its spokesman Sarah Mulley said: ‘Net migration to the UK was unchanged at about 250,000 in the year to September 2011. The Government has found that it is very difficult to reduce immigration to the UK without imposing significant costs on the economy.
‘Recent changes to the student visa regime will deprive the UK education sector and wider economy of much-needed income, but will have only limited impact on long-term net migration because the vast majority of foreign students only remain in the UK temporarily.
‘The Government should exclude students from migration figures and count them only if they stay in the UK for the long term.’
Official population projections say that numbers in the country will hit 70million by 2027.
Critics of high immigration say that this is the level at which housing, energy, water, schools and transport come under unsustainable pressure.
If net migration continues at the 250,000 level the 70million figure will be reached much earlier.
The most common reason for coming to Britain is to study, and the estimates show that 250,000 student migrants arrived in the first nine months of last year, up from 245,000 in the previous year.
Student visas issued in the year to March 2012 fell by 16 per cent and are down 20 per cent since 2009.