Until there is concerted action to revive the failing economies of southern and eastern Europe, there is little hope that the government’s net migration target will be met.
Until there is concerted action to revive the failing economies of southern and eastern Europe, there is little hope that the government’s net migration target will be met
As expected, net migration – immigration minus emigration – into the UK has shown an increase, up from 182,000 in the year to 30 June 2013, to 260,000 in the year to June 2014.
It is not surprising that Theresa May admitted the government was far from achieving its target of bringing net migration down to the tens of thousands by the end of this parliament.
Today’s statistics from the ONS will further intensify the debate about EU migration. All the media attention has focused on conditions in the UK – pull factors.
But if politicians were serious about addressing migration they might also look at push factors within eastern and southern European countries – the unemployment that causes people to move.
Today’s quarterly migration statistics are in two parts. There is a release of administrative data from the Home Office, on work visas, student and family migration, asylum applications, extensions of stay and removals.
The ONS also publishes demographic data on immigration and emigration trends, from which the net migration statistics are drawn.
The Home Office data is precise because it is based on real events – visas that have been issued, asylum cases that have been processed and so on. It shows little that is surprising.
A few more work visas have been issued in the year to 30 September 2014 – mostly for skilled workers who have come through the Tier 2 visa routes to fill vacancies that cannot be filled by UK workers.
Student migration under Tier 4 is up by 2 per cent, due to a small increase in those coming to study in UK universities. Asylum applications are steady, more or less the same as the previous year, with the biggest number of applications coming from Eritrea, Pakistan, Iran and Syria.
It must be noted that the number of asylum-seekers arriving in the UK is small, compared with overall migration flows and routes such as student migration.
The ONS statistics are estimates of overall immigration and emigration. These numbers are based on the International Passenger Survey, which samples about 4,000 migrant arrivals and departures as part of a larger survey of travellers.
There have been many criticisms of the survey, from a wide range of individuals. It is a small sample and many of those approached do not complete the survey.
Nevertheless, the government has chosen to base its flagship migration policy on this survey.
The migration estimates showed that 583,000 people came to the UK as migrants in the year to June 2014 and 323,000 people emigrated. Of those coming into the UK, 39 per cent were from the European Union.
While much of the focus of the migration debate has centred on those from the EU’s newest member states, under half (46 per cent) of EU immigration (and 18 per cent of all immigration) came from countries that joined the EU in 2004 and 2007.
Some 15 per cent of immigration into the UK in the year to June 2014 was returning Brits.
Missing from today’s debate has been any discussion of why EU migrants leave their home countries and come to the UK. While small numbers of people come to study or for family reasons, the overwhelming number of EU migrants come to work.
They come because jobs are hard to find in Spain (unemployment rate 25 per cent), Greece (27 per cent) and Poland (9.6 per cent).
All studies that examine the reasons for migration show that push factors – poverty, unemployment and organised violence – always play a greater role in people’s decisions to move than do pull factors in countries of destination.
Migrants come to the UK for jobs and not because of our benefits. Until there is concerted action to revive the failing economies of southern and eastern Europe, to address youth unemployment and austerity, there is little hope that the government’s net migration target will be met.
It is economic cooperation we need, not xenophobic rhetoric.
Jill Rutter is a contributing editor at Left Foot ForwardLike this article? Sign up to Left Foot Forward's weekday email for the latest progressive news and comment - and support campaigning journalism by making a donation today.