New Migration Watch report misses opportunity for balanced debate on migration

As we anticipate the next round of quarterly immigration figures from the Office of National Statistics this Thursday, a new Migration Watch UK report has been released amid a wave of media hyperbole.

Ruth Grove-White (@RuthGWhite) is a policy officer at the Migrants’ Rights Network (MRN)

As we anticipate the next round of quarterly immigration figures from the Office of National Statistics (ONS) this Thursday, a new Migration Watch UK report (pdf) has been released amid a wave of media hyperbole. Migration Watch UK (MWUK) bills the report, entitled ‘Mass Immigration: Labour’s enduring legacy to Britain’, as a ‘forensic’ analysis of immigration trends.

It appears to have the explicit aim of convincing the public that immigration has been the object of ‘leftie’ political conspiracy since 1997, and that in the process it has generated overtly negative consequences for the UK.

But this report, which runs to just eight pages, seems designed to generate more heat than light about recent immigration trends and political handling of this issue.

Rather than opening up debate by presenting clear information to back up its overarching messages this report muddies the waters, apparently relying on readers’ belief in the general thrust of the argument rather than helping them to understand immigration trends over the last 14 years.

The Migration Watch UK report brings together data from different government datasets and sources with confusing results.

A graph claiming to represent the ‘Sources of Net Migration’ between 1997 and 2009, for example, appears to attribute all net migration for this period to non-EU sources, whilst accompanying text tells us that the ‘overwhelming majority’ of foreign immigrants derive from non-EU sources. The ONS tells us, however, that in 2009 non-British citizens accounted for 83% of all long-term immigrants to the UK, but that a third of these migrants were from EU countries.

Other statistics within this report should also be closely examined.

MWUK claims that international student numbers ‘rose sharply’ over the past five years, but this is far from clear. Rather, researchers report that home office management data shows student immigration to have been relatively stable over recent years.

Migration Watch UK claims that:

“…illegal immigrants could number almost one million.”

A figure not borne out by independent research from the London School of Economics, which has drawn on available evidence to pitch this figure at approximately 625,000 – significantly less than the MWUK estimate.

The projection that the UK population is set to rise to 70 million over the course of the next 20 years are based on past statistics for 2000-2009 – a period in which there was a historic influx of European migrants making these trends far from certain to continue into the future.

This short report aims to generate an overarching picture of immigration at a crisis point as a result of Labour’s lax, or even deliberate, policy of ‘multiculturalism’. As the coalition government seeks to develop further reforms within the immigration system in order to reduce net immigration, there are certainly important questions that should be asked about government handling of immigration in recent years.

But accounts from Labour advisors and ministers indicate that Labour’s biggest problem was the lack of a comprehensive immigration policy at the point when it came to power. Labour spent the back half of its time in government attempting to regain lost ground by flexing its muscles on immigration with the aim of restoring public confidence – an approach that opinion polls indicate was far from successful.

Rather than inflaming concern about population growth, we should be seeking to better understand how the UK economy has become increasingly dependent upon immigration over recent decades, particularly in relation to the growth of the service sector and consumer markets – arguably bringing costs for some immigrants and native workers.

The most damaging outcome for the coalition government would be to make big promises about reducing immigration on which it cannot deliver.

21 Responses to “New Migration Watch report misses opportunity for balanced debate on migration”

  1. Heaven Crawley

    RT @leftfootfwd: New MigrationWatch report misses opportunity for balanced debate on migration: //bit.ly/fgK026 writes @RuthGWhite

  2. Goldsmiths UCU

    RT @leftfootfwd: New MigrationWatch report misses opportunity for balanced debate on migration: //bit.ly/fgK026 writes @RuthGWhite

  3. Migrants Rights Net

    MRN Policy officer @RuthGWhite writes on @leftfootfwd about the New Migration Watch report on #immigration //bit.ly/hnsZqF

  4. Migrants Rights Net

    RT @leftfootfwd: New Migration Watch report misses opportunity for balanced debate on migration //bit.ly/hnsZqF

  5. Press Not Sorry

    RT @leftfootfwd: New MigrationWatch report misses opportunity for balanced debate on migration: //bit.ly/fgK026 writes @RuthGWhite

  6. Duncan Stott

    It’s very generous to call it even an eight page report. The first two are cover pages containing no substance.

  7. NCADC

    RT @migrants_rights: RT @leftfootfwd: New Migration Watch report misses opportunity for balanced debate on migration //bit.ly/hnsZqF

  8. Andrew Green

    The ONS figures referred to are gross inward migration for a particular year. The bar chart in the paper refers to NET migration over the WHOLE PERIOD.
    Secondly, if student VISITORS (less than six months) are taken out, there has been an increase as even the IPPR now recognise.
    Finally, the projections used are the ONS pricipal population projections based on 180,000 net immigration per year, below the recent average of about 200,000.

  9. Jonathon Watson

    What exactly would a balanced debate be then? Just continuing to ignore mass immigration?

  10. Rocky Hamster

    RT @leftfootfwd: New Migration Watch report misses opportunity for balanced debate on migration //bit.ly/hnsZqF

  11. Ruth Grove-White

    The MWUK report states that “Foreign immigrants continue to arrive at almost one per minute – the overwhelming majority from outside the EU, as illustrated in the graph above”. ONS data for 2009 was quoted in this blog to demonstrate that it is not at all clear that the ‘overwhelming majority’ of immigrants coming to the UK today are from outside the EU. The statement relating to student numbers was informed by the ippr report ‘Student migration in the UK’, released today.

    Regarding a ‘balanced debate’. My view is that simply calling for a reduction in immigration levels does not change the integral role that immigration plays in both our economy and our society (like it or not). If government wanted to make an impact on this, it would need to address a much wider range of issues than just border controls.

  12. william

    Ruth Grove-White,please compare and contrast the number of claimants of ‘job seekers allowance’and ‘incapacity benefit’,the increase since 1997,and the increase in net migration.You might also ask yourself whether the average UK taxpayer is happy in the knowledge that their money is being spent on the non resident children of EU nationals resident in the UK,but claiming child benefit.

  13. Pegasus

    William, you are not making much sense I am afraid. Can you compare the number of migrants with the number of Harry Potter books sold since 1997. Or even better can you compare the increase in life expectancy with the number of migrants in the UK. The fact that one is on the up doesn’t mean that the other is responsible for the change.
    With regards to the average UK tax payer, they are entitled to the same benefits all around Europe as their fellow EU citizens. Brits in Spain get the same benefits as Spaniards. It’s called a common EU market. If you have a grief with that I’m sure UKIP is looking for some votes wherever you are… You can even become a campaigner for them. This is called participation in the political process and according to the theory of democracy if the UK taxpayer would really mind then things would change and the government could stop paying benefits to people paying taxes in the UK. Thankfully this is not the case.

  14. Simon Briscoe

    The problem with this debate is the lack of decent comprehensive data. When immigration started to rise (around the time Labour got in) they should have sorted the data – instead there were meetings after meetings among civil servants and still we don’t have decent numbers. Labour was culpable for that failing! We should debate the policy on the foundation of agreed numbers not argue about the numbers. Were they afraid of what the numbers would show?

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  16. Rosie Scammell

    RT @leftfootfwd: New Migration Watch report misses opportunity for balanced debate on migration //bit.ly/hnsZqF

  17. william

    Pegasus, the last government pursued a bizarre policy of expanding the numbers reliant on state handouts,with 70 percent of new jobs being carried out by migrants.Labour lost several million votes,91 seats, an obliteration in non urban England,and UKIP depriving the tories of an additional 21 seats.Multicultural Britain is a turn off for many Labour supporters.It is as simple as that.

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  19. Richard

    You’re still not making much sense William. That 70% figure (which you no doubt picked out of the Wail or Excess), has been thoroughly discredited by Full Fact amongst others. And if it were even remotely near the truth, perhaps we should be asking ourselves why so many Brits spurn those jobs in the first place and prefer sitting around on their arses and benefits, as the PM stated last week.

  20. sam

    Complete and utter non-sense, Migration Watch / Daily Mail et al. is a right wing think tank and has become more active since ConDems are in power. Immigrants are a soft target in the economic down turn and so they are in this case as well. UK will lose in the long run if the try to stop skilled people, make retrospective (unlawful changes), and stop genuine students. Its a global world you can’t think little Britain any more. Be tolerant and show some respect for the people who bring billions of pounds (genuine students) and pay billions in taxes (skilled workers) . you are sending wrong message to the world and immigration is just like foreign investment if people lost trust its takes time to build it again. AT LAST YOU CANT STOP UNSKILLED EU CITIZENS COMING. ENGLISH WILL ALWAYS BE A PROBLEM FOR THEM!! CAPS WILL ONLY BE ON HIGHLY EDUCATED NON-EU PEOPLE. LETS BECOME MORE COMPETITIVE AND THINK BROAD AND NOT BLAME EVERYTHING ON NON-EU HARD WORKING MIGRANTS.

  21. The government must stop spreading false perceptions about immigration | Left Foot Forward

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