More misleading claims about migration

Migration Watch are plain wrong to suggest that the introduction of the Points-Based System for managing immigration has led to an increase in the number of economic migrants entering the UK.

The UK border

Migration Watch are plain wrong to suggest that the introduction of the Points-Based System for managing immigration has led to an increase in the number of economic migrants entering the UK. A number of papers – including the Daily Mail – report the publication of a Migration Watch briefing that purports to show that migration to the UK from outside the EU for work has increased by 20 per cent since the introduction of the Points-Based System in 2008.

But this claim is false.  In fact, the Home Office statistics that Migration Watch cite show that the total number of visas issued through the parts of the Points-Based System that deal with migration for work (Tiers 1 and 2) was 97,280 in 2009 (including dependents).  This is 15 per cent fewer than the 114,850 visas issued (including dependents) in 2007 through the Work Permit and Highly Skilled Migrant routes that the PBS replaced.  This downward trend is continuing – visas (including dependents) granted through Tiers 1 and 2 were down 15 per cent in the first quarter of 2010 compared to the first quarter of 2009.

Migration Watch can claim an ‘increase’ in economic migration from outside the EU only by including in their figures not only new arrivals but also extensions of leave to remain for those who have already come to the UK through Tier 1 and 2 or predecessor schemes in previous years.  It is misleading to describe this as immigration.  It is also difficult to compare these numbers over time – changes in the immigration rules can mean that more or fewer people need to apply for extensions in any given year, regardless of the underlying levels of immigration (individuals can also make more than one application for extension in a year, so there is some double counting).

In fact, it seems likely that the change to the Points-Based system in 2008 might well explain part of the increase in the number of extensions issued between 2007 and 2009 as people already in the UK ‘transitioned’ from one scheme to another.  The increase is also in part a lagged result of high levels of immigration for work before 2007 (well before the introduction of the PBS).  That there is no upward trend in these grants of extension is borne out by more recent figures showing that employment-related grants of an extension of leave to remain fell by 15 per cent from 122,105 in the year to March 2008 to 103,500 in the year to March 2009.

Migration Watch are right when they claim that there was a significant increase in the number of student visas issued between 2007 and 2009 (and indeed student numbers continue to rise).  However, it is wrong to infer from this that the introduction of the PBS for managing student immigration has meant a loosening of the rules.  While there is no doubt some abuse of the student visa regime, the introduction of the PBS (and further changes planned by the last government) mean that the system is being significantly tightened up.

The increase in the numbers of foreign students in the UK is a reflection of a range of other factors, not least the success of the UK higher education sector and the weakening of sterling (which has made study in the UK more affordable).  It is also important to note that student visas do not confer a right to settle in the UK, and that most student migration is temporary – increases in student migration have only a limited impact on the long-term rate of net migration to the UK.

Migration Watch are desperate to show that immigration is increasing in order to pressure the Government into imposing restrictions on immigration that could damage the UK economy and public services

In fact, net immigration to the UK (the surplus of people immigrating over people emigrating) in the year to September 2009 was 11 per cent lower than in the year to September 2008.  Declining net emigration by British citizens included in the total figure disguises an even more dramatic fall in net non-British immigration, which was down almost 27 per cent in the year to September 2009 compared to the year to 2008. Net migration from the EU fell by a massive 66 per cent in this period, but net migration from outside the EU is also falling – down 10 per cent in the year to September 2009 compared with the year to September 2008.

David Cameron has said repeatedly that he wants annual net immigration down to ‘tens of thousands, rather than hundreds of thousands’. The economic crisis, the natural cycles of migration flows and the tougher polices of the last government have already turned the tide – and at this rate we will see net immigration fall below 100,000 without the introduction for the much trumpeted cap on immigration.

• Ippr yesterday published a full briefing which analyses last week’s migration statistics.

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  • Andrew

    Couldn’t agree more. Sir Andrew Green should be exposed for his art of spin and the right wing newspapers should actually do some research rather than printing his press releases nearly word for word!

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  • Robert

    To late

  • Duncan Stott

    Overall, an excellent article. I think there could be room for a blog called Migration Watch Watch! If they are so willing to mislead people over migration statistics, you do have to wonder what their motive is. While it’s not racist to talk about immigration, to lie about it… well.

    However there is one correction I would make: it is wrong to suggest that most student migration is temporary. Post-study work visas are (relatively) simple for foreign student to qualify for, and while there are ridiculous bureaucratic hoops that need jumping through (like all visas), they do provide a route to more long-term residence in the UK. Just to add: this is a good thing! – retaining intelligent, highly-qualified labour is obviously good for the economy.

    I point this out because if you’re going to criticise others for misleading claims, it is crucial to make sure all the counter-claims are rock-solid. Lets leave the distortion tactic to the opposition.

  • tracy j

    i wondered how long this thread would go before some twat accused someone of racism. well done duncan you utter cock

  • Sarah Mulley

    Duncan: you’re right to say that students can move to post-study visas, but it’s also true that much student migration is temporary. For example, only 4,245 Tier 1 post-study visas were issued in 2009. This is an area where we need better data though (the current system doesn’t allow us to accurately say what the contribution of student migration to net migration is), and I should have made that clear.

  • Shamik Das

    tracy j – please do not write that Duncan accused someone of racism when he did not, and please do not insult people in that manner on this blog.

    He clearly says it is not racist to talk about immigration: “While it’s not racist to talk about immigration, to lie about it… well.”

    This is our comments policy – – please abide by it.

  • Sevillista

    The MigrationWatch release is worse than you suggest.

    As you note, their argument immigration has increased hinges on a rise in visa extensions 2007-2009.

    And yet the figures they cite (p47 of show that the number of extension visas granted FELL from 274,000 to 251,000 between 2007 and 2009, helped by a rise in rejected applications from 24,000 to 49,000 due to the new tougher points-based system.

    Their numbers only work if you ignore the total number of work and study visa extensions. Basically, MigrationWatch treat all extensions under the new PBS as additional to 2007 as there were zero extensions in this category before the category was created (rather unsurprising).

    On a similar logical note, I hope someone chases the Tories down on the massive increase in expenditure of £60 billion associated with their new Department of Education (the previous existence of this same £60 billion expenditure in the DCSF is irrelevant following the MigrationWatch logic)

    It’s truly bizarre

  • Sarah Mulley

    Sevillista: good point – glad I’m not the only person sad enough to look at Home Office stats! MW do include extensions from work permit holders in their numbers (i.e. not just PBS), but they miss out the slightly mysterious sounding ‘permit free employment’ category and student extensions, both of which fell dramatically after the PBS launched (presumably because they were incorporated into it in various ways), so they miss the overall decrease you point out…

  • tracy j

    “He clearly says it is not racist to talk about immigration: “While it’s not racist to talk about immigration, to lie about it… well.””

    that is an accusation of racism against migrationwatch. #if# you can’t see that you’re a retard

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  • Shamik Das

    Tracy j, read that line again, and re-read the comments policy, and make sure you abide by it if you wish to continue to be able to comment on here.

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  • tracy j

    same old ‘New Labour’ tactics. accuse people of racism, shut down the debate.

  • Anon E Mouse

    tracy j – The article implies that the Migration Watch comments are racist.

    Quite clearly that is nonsense and the writer of the article is stating that Migration Watch is racist which it most certainly is not.

    The problem here is that you need to moderate your language so where you say; “That twat Duncan is an utter cock” – even though your sentiments will be shared by the majority of readers here, the choice of language won’t be.

    This is a great blog where some of the moderators will keep you amused for hours whilst they come up with theories that one wouldn’t expect 14 year old debating societies to take seriously but I do agree with the rules regarding bad language here.

    Leave that to bloggers like Sunny Hundal and others of limited abilities like him and let’s keep Left Foot Forward ploughing on without the bad language.

  • tracy j

    hahaha! ok anon, fair enough. bad language is a no no. they were definitely from the heart though!

    sometimes, rather than try and debate a point it’s easier just to say what you see!

  • Duncan Stott

    For the avoidance of doubt, I was indeed suggesting that there could be a racist motive towards Migration Watch releasing deliberately misleading statistics about immigration. But feel free to suggest other suggestions for what their motive is.

    Peddling lies about immigration is racist. Like you say, Tracy J, it’s easier just to say what you see.

  • Colin Runeckles

    I tried to get comments posted on the DM article about this double counting three times before one was allowed through…only after the article was moved from the front page in mid-afternoon. My post was timed at 12:02. They don’t like people pointing out the inconvenient truth…

  • Anon E Mouse

    Duncan Stott – You may see peddling lies about immigration as being racist but the majority opinion in this country certainly doesn’t. Since the majority of immigration is from the EU and the majority of peoples in the EU coming here are Polish (we are told) then how can it be racist since they are the same race as us?

    Looking over your blog I particularly like the “Alun Johnson is a hypocrite” bit (although Labour Party supporters being hypocrites is hardly news) but on what basis is Migration Watch being racist?

    Alarmist maybe but racist I think not. It’s 2010 Duncan. Who cares about race anymore?

  • Duncan Stott

    The Migration Watch report isn’t about EU immigration. It is about the points-based system that is used for non-EU immigration. By the way, the latest figures show more Eastern European migrants are leaving the UK than arriving. The transitional controls adopted by many other EU countries to avoid a sudden wave of Eastern European immigration expire next year, which can only serve to further depress the net number of Eastern Europeans migrants in the UK.

    I don’t think alarmist is the right word. To me that suggests an over-the-top reaction to a genuine story. There’s plenty of that around the immigration ‘debate’ too, but I’d never call that racist. But this Migration Watch report isn’t a genuine story. They’ve fiddled the numbers to mislead the public about the scale of immigration.

    Who cares about race these days? Well, the BNP got 563,743 votes at the general election, compared to 192,745 in 2005. So, over a five year period, the BNP have managed to nearly treble their vote. One caveat: they did stand candidates in more constituencies. But I don’t think we can ignore them, or ignore the sources of that feed their narrative. Yep, this Migration Watch report is today on the front page of the BNP website, as usual.

  • tracy j

    as for who cares about race, the BNP appear to be about ‘Britishness’ whatever that is, so even they don’t seem to be bothered by race

  • Tom A

    “as for who cares about race, the BNP appear to be about ‘Britishness’ whatever that is, so even they don’t seem to be bothered by race”

    This is a joke, right?

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  • Anon E Mouse

    Tom A – I think the point is that certain people seem to be obsessed by race in this country and others, including myself, really don’t see colour at all.

    People see what they want to see which is fine unless they start moralising about those like me who refuse to allow race issues to drag on into the 21st century.

    I think the saying is “Out of open mouths into closed minds…”

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  • John

    Recent analysis of Home Office stats by Migration Watch shows that big claims about immigration based on analysis of the latest numbers should often be handled with caution…

    Mark Twain said “there are three kinds of lies: lies, damned lies, and statistics”. Certainly, the reliability of immigration stats seems to greatly depend on who has compiled them and why.

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