Why we need to scrap the net migration target

There are no easy answers to the questions immigration throws up, so politicians should stop making empty promises


The quarterly migration statistics were released today, showing that net migration has risen to historically high levels. It is not since the year to June 2005 that it has been so high. In the year to September 2014, an estimated 624,000 long-term migrants arrived in the UK and 327,000 emigrants left.

This leaves an estimate of net migration at 298,000 people. It was 320,000 people in the year to June 2005. Crucially, net migration is now far above the ‘tens of thousands’ promise that the Conservatives made in 2010.

Emigration from the UK has been fairly constant since 2012. It is immigration that has increased and this is why net migration has increased. Over the last year, there has been an increase in EU and non-EU migration to the UK. In the year to September 2014, EU immigration increased by 43,000 over the previous year, and non-EU immigration by 49,000.

Of EU migrants arriving in the UK in the year to September 2015, an estimated 51 per cent were from the ‘EU 15’ – those who were members of the EU before May 2004.

A further 31 per cent were from the ‘EU 8’ – Poland, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Hungary, Slovenia and the Baltic States. Some 15 per cent of EU migrants arriving in the year to September 2014 were from Bulgaria and Romania.

While all these categories of EU migration increased over the last year, the biggest increase was in Bulgarian and Romanian migration, up 54 per cent over the previous year. There was no statistically significant increase in migration from the EU8 states of eastern and central Europe – the 4,000 real increase may be a consequence of chance alone or sampling errors in the International Passenger Survey, the controversial statistical tool used to estimate net migration.

The government’s reaction to the net migration statistics has been to look contrite. The junior minister for immigration, James Brokenshire, has been wheeled out to explain that the trends were ‘disappointing’.

But Labour’s response was also no more credible. In response to the net migration figures, Yvette Cooper has promised a crackdown on undocumented migration and employment agencies who exploit EU migrants. While these may be valid policy objectives, there is little evidence to suggest that such moves will significantly reduce net migration.

There are a number of ways that governments can reduce undocumented migration. These include interventions in the country of origin and countries of transition – so-called ‘upstream’ measures, enhanced border controls, ‘deterrence’ measures in the UK such as employer sanctions, immigration raids, voluntary departures and amnesties and regularisation. All these measures are relatively expensive to deliver and likely to have quite small impacts on net migration.

The statistics on are contested, but it is a minority of EU migrants who are recruited by or work for employment agencies. It is important to remember that most of them operate above the radar and may also recruit or employ British workers.

We may not like their practices, but as long as they obey the law and pay the National Minimum Wage, there is little that a government could do to crackdown on them further. There is also little evidence to suggest that any crackdown would significantly reduce net migration.

So Labour’s response, too, is an example of tough talk and over-promising – and as such can only act to reduce the public’s trust in the ability of politicians to deliver on immigration policy. It has only been UKIP who has been able to advance a coherent argument – leave the EU and we’ll gain control of our borders.

The main political parties have dug themselves into a hole. In such circumstances, it might be an idea to stop digging. We need to scrap the net migration target and accept that the current levels of migration are inevitable in the short–term, and a feature of a successful economy.

We need to focus on the things that matter, removing foreign criminals, integration and building good community relations. And through the EU and foreign policy levers, we need to support economic development in Bulgaria and Romania to limit the push factors that contribute to migration.

Jill Rutter is a contributing editor to Left Foot Forward and writes on migration and family policy

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75 Responses to “Why we need to scrap the net migration target”

  1. damon

    So you won’t have read Kenan Malik’s opinion of what drives young westerners into the ranks of Isis today then.
    I have little time for media snobs myself.

  2. Leon Wolfeson

    You have little time for X. I see. The root reason is…yep, I’m a left-winger.

    Puff feel-good opinion pieces are, as I said, of little interest to me. I’m interested in hard analysis from groups like Quilliam.

    You are still not admitting the basic fact here – you were wrong. You remain wrong.

  3. damon

    You a left winger?
    I’d have no problem if that’s all you were.
    It’s your childishness that I see as the problem.
    I rate Quilliam myself btw.

    ”Puff feel-good opinion pieces …..”


    You’re wrong again Leon. That’s actually very good analysis.

  4. Guest

    Ah yes, I’m Jewish.
    That rather does explain your attitude to me. Right.
    Or is your problem with my being leftist? Do make your mind up!

    You are the one in the wrong, you spewed your hate and missed. You will not admit this, instead doubling down on your bigotry.

  5. damon

    Back to school tomorrow Leon?

    What are you talking about Jewish identity for? I couldn’t care less what religion people are, though being secular, I think religious people can be a little odd.
    But what the heck, I used to be a Catholic altar boy growing up.
    You’re not suited to this site Leon. It’s not meant to be a sectarian battleground I think.

  6. Guest

    No, see, unlike you I’m not at school.

    And because it’s clearly highly relevant to you – and I see, you’re against ALL religious people. Which means you *are* an Jewhater, and since I’m Jewish…logic follows!

    You keep saying that left wingers and Jews are not suited to be on this site. that your right wing must be unchallenged and your intolerance the only thing allowed.

    Your type of calls for censorship. damon/Matt/LB are the very problem – you are the one here to troll and to create a sectarian battleground, as you desperately try and silence other voices.

    That’s all there is to it – you’re here to prevent debate and hamper the left.

  7. damon

    ”You keep saying that left wingers and Jews are not suited to be on this site”

    I have never said such a thing ever …. so that is just a lie.
    I say you are not suited to this site because you are wrecking it with your childishness. That’s the only reason.

  8. Guest

    So you’re saying that any kind of left-wing thought is a reason for your demand for censorship and control of what is allowed to be posted.

    You’re desperate to silence any other kind of voice, as you try and deny your clear bias, which you showed for instance in listing out religions and missing Judaism off, on purpose, as what you can tolerate…

    It’s all very clear Lord Blagger. I’m not the anti-pensions, pro-censorship liar here.

  9. Joe Bloggs

    It’s nothing to do with ethnicity.
    Lefty retards just can’t seem to grasp that fact.

  10. Joe Bloggs

    A very common sense reply.
    However, the lefty bigots don’t seem to see the truth of it.
    They want to see the whole of Europe under left-wing domination.

  11. Guest

    Keep throwing that bigotry against disabled people as well as your racism, and your terror of non-Christians. Fear, fear is all you have.

    Your PC bigotry shines. Like a ****.

  12. Guest

    No, very few people on the left want your kind of anti-democratic coups. To you, this is “bigotry”

    You’re blaming others for your issues, as you attack democracy and are an anti-disabled bigot as well as being an entirely politically correct collectivist.

  13. Kevin Stall

    Try looking at the historic background of slums. Frequently it was caused by groups of immigrants banding together is areas. The Jewish ghettos were not bad places to live but areas where they could keep their culture and laws and lice without mixing with others. Even today they still have a degree of where the tend to congregate in London and Paris and New York. Their own little communities. They are not the only ones. Little Odessa, Chinatown can be found in just about every city.

    Slums can also be caused by a diverse culture moves out and is replaced by a single culture.

  14. Kevin Stall

    Not only that but immigrants tend to have higher birth rates. Less likely to afford the number of children. I did a thesis on birth rate factors years ago at uni. Education, salary and religion were all major factors to birth rates.

  15. Kevin Stall

    People are economic resources, without a work force an economy can not grow. Without people spending money there is no one to buy anything. But we have an abundance of people out of work. Many don’t bother to look anymore. Without immigration we would probably have enough for full employment, which is a 3% unemployment rate. There was a time when the UK didn’t need immigrant labour.

  16. Guest

    Yes, there’s one cause – only poor people in an area.
    Often, immigrants were poor.

    The Jewish ghettos were not slums. They were overcrowded places to live, in general, as Jews were forced to live in them by restrictive laws. Really does say a lot you’re whitewashing them, and trying to compare them with somewhere like the London Council of Barnet, which is ~15% Jewish in London and one of the major “Jewish” areas of London – compared a small 100% Jewish Ghetto….really!

    Slums are 100% poverty-based. You want to instead demand that cultures be seen as inferior and relegate them to slums – that is, to poverty. That they should only be able to *afford* to live in the slum…that they need to be there for mutual defence against the far right, etc.

  17. Guest

    Without trade, the only way you’d have full employment is outright slavery, of course. More realistically, add ten million or so non-workers.

    You then make up nonsense about ” don’t bother to look anymore”, as you try and block Britain off from the world, and make up stories of a time which never was, when in reality most people in the past were desperately poor. what you want for the 99% today.

  18. Guest

    So you did a thesis in politics, for your economy degree. You then confuse cause and effect, as ever.

    You ignore the profile of immigrants in favour of “foreigners poor bad”.

  19. Kevin Stall

    You think the world won’t trade with us if we leave the EU? Only do 25% of our trade is with the EU. If we left we can still trade with them. We are still a significant economy in the area.

  20. Kevin Stall

    No, that was a research I did for my Sociology degree, which I got before economics. I was bored and my wife was still in school and I liked economics so I got another degree.

  21. Guest

    Look, if you buy it from a degree mill it ain’t a degree worth the paper.

    You were rich, bored and wanted some rag paper. Right.

  22. Guest

    You think there will magically be new treaties if we leave the EU, as you repeat figures which don’t have any basis in reality and repeat “it’ll be okay, really” with no evidence, as you try and blame the EU for your policies.

    They don’t encourage you, it’s the UK – Cameron – who undermined the EU’s tax negotiation deals with the Swiss, for instance.

    Your ignorance of tax law in the EU and the changes proposed show your basic ignorance. Problematic tax schemes are being wound down in the EU..it’s the UK which is refusing to reign in it’s non-EU tax havens.

  23. Kevin Stall

    Of course there will be new treaties. There are constantly new treaties. There is even talk of free trade across the Atlantic. Europe depends more on us than we do on them. We will never join the euro zone. And that gives us an economic advantage over most of the EU.

    While the UK can wheel in the non-European tax havens, most tax havens are used by our corps are EU tax havens.

  24. Kevin Stall

    Sorry but reputable brick and mortar schools. Even paid for it myself. Though I did go overseas to work on a 2nd masters in the field I was working in at the time. I don’t think Boston university can be classified as a diploma mill. That was one school I attended and almost went for a PhD from them. Instead worked on a certificate of advance graduate studies in education. A step below a PhD and classes could be considered if at a later date decided to go ahead with with doctorate.

  25. Kevin Stall

    Considering we import more from the EU than we sell them, I don’t think they want to loose our business. And since currently we can not make any trade deals of our own (EU reserves that right for members) Who knows what treaties could be out there waiting for us.

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