Comment: The government must start telling the truth about migration

Maintaining the pretence that the government is able to reduce net migration to the tens of thousands is dishonest


The Spending Review and vote on Syria have blown the quarterly migration statistics off the front pages of most media outlets.

But it is inevitable that later today, the migration statistics will be spun and sensationalised in the press, used as evidence that the government’s policy is failing and that the numbers of people coming to the UK is increasing. But scrutiny of the statistics tells a more interesting story.

The Conservatives went into the 2010 election with the pledge to reduce net migration – immigration minus emigration – to the tens of thousands by 2015 election.  It failed on this aim – spectacularly – but the government has continued to keep the pledge as a policy objective.

Today’s statistics show that an estimated 636,000 people migrated to the UK in the 12 months to June 2015, while 300,000 people left, leaving a net inflow of 336,000, the same level as in March 2015, but some 236,000 people above the government’s net migration target.

But a deeper delve into the statistics tells a different story. Migration from the EU has fallen, including migration from the EU’s newest member states (73,000 migrant in the year to June 2015, compared with 81,000 in the year to March 2015).

Levels of non-EU migration are also lower than they were at the beginning of the last parliament and under Labour, although a little higher than at the same time last year.  

Home Office administrative statistics also released today confirms these trends. The numbers of student visas issued has fallen by 5.9 per cent in the quarter to September 2015, compared with the previous year, while the number of family and work visas issued has remained constant.

What has changed is that fewer migrants are leaving the UK – just 300,000 people left the UK as emigrants in the year to June 2015, compared with 321,000 in the year to June 2014. Levels of emigration are at a record low. This means that even if immigration falls, net migration will remain high because fewer people are leaving.

This fact highlights the nonsensical nature of the government’s net migration target. Some 13.4 per cent of immigrants in coming to the UK were returning UK nationals and a further 41.7 per cent were other EU nationals, two groups whose entry the government has little ability to control. Net migration targets have been further derailed by fewer migrants leaving.  

Maintaining the pretence that the government is able to reduce net migration to the tens of thousands is dishonest. It reduces public trust in the ability of politicians to manage migration. At a time when there is a growing exodus of migrants crossing the Mediterranean, it is essential that politicians are open and candid about what they can and cannot do.

Abandoning the net migration target would be the most truthful option. We need an open and evidenced debate, not lies and deceit.

Jill Rutter is a contributing editor to Left Foot Forward

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28 Responses to “Comment: The government must start telling the truth about migration”

  1. adam smith

    The one and only way to control immigration is to quit the EU

    Join Leave.EU-

    Leave.EU facebook-

  2. Jacko

    One of the things that amuses me about the writers on this site, such as Jill Rutter, is they never actually come out and say they want more immigration, even though we all know they do.

    It’s always framed in such terms as ‘we need an honest debate’ and ‘migrants contribute x% of GDP” and ‘a diverse community makes us stronger’ and similar guff.

    At least the Tories are honest about this: they want less immigration and they’ve said so. The contributors on this site want more immigration but they have neither the intellectual honesty or courage to come out and say it.

    Over to you Jill Rutter. Do you want more or less immigration?

  3. Dave C

    How many UK citizens live in the EU? How would the UK cope if they all were forced to return by their respective countries. And don’t say that this would never happen, because it will if the UK leaves the EU.

  4. Dave C

    It may come as a surprise to you, or maybe not, but all of the UK is from immigrant stock.

  5. Bradley EC

    I think many British people would like to see non-EU migration reduced dramatically – not students – but all others. How many Brazilian waiters and Thai nail painters do we need? And so on and so on…

  6. Sid

    Immigration has exceeded 600,000 again. It has to stop.

    We need a points based immigration system.

  7. Sid

    British citizens live all over the world. It would have no effect.

  8. Sid

    But until recently, of similar culture.

  9. damon

    Let’s just have more immigration though – and see how many people we can fit into Britain.

    I reckon a population of a hundred million would make things quite interesting.

    And to get us going properly, how about taking about half of this hundred thousand African asylum seekers that Italy seems to be struggling with?
    ‘We were abandoned’: migrants tell of suffering in Italy’s private shelters

  10. Jacko

    Do you mean that because all human beings in the UK ultimately have distant genetic herritage elsewhere, that we should not now have immigration controls?

  11. Dave C

    Why are you so sure. It’s what other countries politicians are saying should happen

  12. Dave C

    No Blacks, Irish or dogs signs in lodging house windows or on doors you mean. Are you suggesting we go back to the days of CofE versus Catholics, progroms against Jews or anyone not Christian. Yes you must be a throwback to UKIP

  13. Stay Puft

    The fact that two of the Paris terrorists were “refugees” from Syria shouldn’t stop us allowing in 10 million undocumented “refugees”. It’s the only decent thing to do. And if anyone gets blown up, they had it coming anyway. Muslim terrorists aren’t to blame.

  14. crackenthorp

    I know many people on here do not want to read this so tough you are going to get it
    According to the IFS Osborne was only able to do a U turn on tax credits because of immigration
    The overwhelming majority have jobs and pay taxes, NI, VAT etc. thus bolstering the revenue intake and at the same time boosting GDP
    Far from being a drain on the country they are a great benefit to us.
    What a pity the indigenous population cannot match the immigrants.
    Perhaps the likes of adam smith and sid would like to emigrate

  15. /O43 |_|K19!!

    So all you have is a hypothetical. That’s PAthetical.

  16. /O43 |_|K19!!

    The profile of immigration is constantly changing. The Poles from 10 years ago are not the same as the Romanians from 5 years ago who are not the same as the Syrians, Pakistanis and Africans coming in now. And the only thing we know for sure is that we don’t know who is actually coming in. Projections based on this are likely to lead to surprise disappointment!

  17. crackenthorp

    I should have made it clearer but (according to the IFS) the improvement in the country’s finance is due entirely to immigration from outside the EU so your point does not hold water

  18. jj

    Yes, so is most of the world’s countries if you go far back enough, doesn’t mean that 600,000 extra people every single year is going o be a good thing! In the past it would be 50,000 possibly in a decade, or half a decade, now we get more than that over a three month period, its simply not sustainable

  19. jj

    Think reasonably about immigration, is it sustainable? No, it is not. And when something is not sustainable, it will ultimately collapse.

  20. jj

    Immigration, at current levels is rather out of hand. We talk about environmental sustainability, but never population sustainability.

  21. Monksfield

    Correction, the Tories say they want less immigration, but actually do nothing to reduce it. Rightly or wrongly.

  22. Mark Frankel

    “They come over here…” There has never been a time when small-minded people have not been complaining about foreigners, whether from overseas or the next village. People move around. Get over it.

  23. Dave Stewart

    So you think people coming to live in the UK in the hope of a better life is unacceptable but you’re fine with the idea of you (and other Brits) going to live in another country in the hope of a better life?

  24. damon

    I think that an overcrowed Britain will be a less pleasant place to live.
    And having to put up with the decades of building the new infrastructure that will need to go with it is also a pain.
    I’m a professional driver in the London area and have just been driven to distraction with all the feckin road closures and huge amount of building work that is going on to build the city to take in about half the size of the population again. Ten plus million. It’s a pain in the arse.
    I bet when I get back, the cyclists won’t be even using some of the cycle lanes that were being put in when I left. Because they will be slower than staying out in the traffic. Everywhere you go there are roads dug up with signs saying ”We’re building London’s future” and other such nonsense.
    England has only so much land to play with, and I like to be able to get out to the countryside, not see it all turned into suburbs and dual carriageways.

    As for getting out of it and going and living somewhere less stressful? Why not?

  25. Dave Stewart

    The UK has only covered 13 % of it’s land in buildings. It is not full or overcrowded. London certainly is but that’s beacuse that’s where the jobs are and where lots of people want to live. All major global cities are over crowded. It’s not UK specific.

    I have no problem with you moving somewhere less stressful. What I dislike is the double standard you seem to hold where it is OK for you and other Brits to move to other countries but it isn’t OK for others to come here.

  26. damon

    ”The UK has only covered 13 % of it’s land in buildings.”

    That argument is so rubbish. Do you think if the figure was 50% it would still be OK because we’d still have 50% that was not built on?
    And it’s not just the built on land that is blighted. Do you consider the fields that run alongside motorways and main roads to be unaffected? Or the bits of green between towns that have busy roads running through them. South East England is majority green fields, but it is already a busy congested place.
    And who said that I didn’t want any immigration? I certainly didn’t.
    What I said is that I don’t like the idea of a Britain with a much larger population. Its alreay grown hugely since the end of WW2. It used to be about 55 million.
    One reason I like Ireland is because there is space there.
    The motorways aren’t so full to bursting that one incident causes gridlock, like happens on the M25 every bloody time I go on it.
    Do you propose that we just keep adding lanes, or that we build another one around it?

    You could argue there is lots of building land to the south west of London where the M3 runs. But put twenty thousand houses on it and where is the traffic going to go? On to the M3 and M25 and other congested roads of the area. You can’t just build your way out of everything.

  27. Helen Oyintando Ilitha

    Scotland has a shrinking population. It needs more immigrants, or at the very least more people from other parts of the UK to move there. How could this be achieved, which would reduce the strain on other areas?

  28. Gerwynimo

    50% of Cancer Radiologists are from continental Europe. We have a shortage of builders, nurses, doctors and such-like. Until the government is serious about training and skilling people already in the UK then we will still be over-reliant on the need to import labour. I am glad that we import so many people, but not happy that the govt. has such a downer on the public sector.

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