Concerns over high immigration figures are misplaced and levels of net migration in the UK remain broadly similar to other high-income countries, according to new research.
A briefing by Oxford University’s Migration Observatory found that the percentage of foreign-born people in the UK was the same as in the US and Spain and less than Germany, Belgium, Ireland and Australia.
The figures fly in the face of the government’s assertion it needs to reduce migration dramatically as it is too high and needs to be reduced, say experts.
The report sayss: “By the beginning of the 2020s, the UK’s foreign-born population was approximately 14%.
“The UK has a smaller foreign-born population than Australia, Canada, and New Zealand. The foreign-born population in Australia, for example, is roughly double that of the UK as a share of the population.”
Although net migration was at a record 606,000 last year, the independent report confirms the rise was an anomaly caused mainly by global circumstances. There were 114,000 long-term arrivals from Ukraine on the Ukraine Schemes in 2022 and 52,000 long-term arrivals on BN(O) visas, mostly from Hong Kong.
The report suggests that the political focus on net migration figures is flawed.
It says: “The net migration measure has many flaws.
“For example, it tells us little about who is arriving and leaving or what their impacts are. It can also produce counterintuitive or misleading figures when migration patterns change substantially in a short period.
“The UK is unusual in its choice to use net migration in policy debates as the main measure for discussing migration levels.”
It says the percentage rate of foreign-born people in a population is accepted as a more reliable indicator of how much immigration a country has experienced.
The report states that the 2022 figures do not represent the “new normal” and predicts that figures will fall from this year onwards as recent non-EU migrants are not expected to stay indefinitely. In addition emigration is expected to increase in coming years because most work and student migrants do not remain in the UK permanently.
The report’s authors write: “Many non-EU citizens come to the UK for periods of a few years before emigrating again. This means that while they contribute to immigration in the short run, they contribute less to net migration or to population growth over the long term.”
Visa and immigration expert Yash Dubal, director of A Y & J Solicitors, said concerns ramped up by government rhetoric were misplaced.
He said: “The report shows that there is no need to panic or get hysterical over the figures for legal migration.
“While it might be convenient for politicians to scare people in an election year with the suggestion immigration is at rampant levels, this report shows the opposite. Seen in an historical and international context, levels of migration are average.”