Rishi Sunak admits net migration too high as he vows to bring numbers down
Around 1.2 million migrants arrived in Britain last year and 557,000 emigrated, official figures showed.
Tory MPs warned the high numbers are “unsustainable” and putting a strain on public services.
Mr Sunak admitted the 24 percent increase is “too high” and insisted he is taking tough action to reverse the trend.
He said: “I know Express readers looking at the migration figures will be clear in their minds that they are too high and I could not agree more.
“Unprecedented world events and the lifting of covid restrictions have led to record levels of immigration to the UK.
“While there is much that we should be proud of – and it was right that we opened our hearts and homes to 114,000 people fleeing war in Ukraine and stood by our commitments to 52,000 Hong Kongers – we must, and my Government will, bring down the number of people coming to the UK.
“Stopping the boats and tackling illegal immigration is one of my top five priorities, but I am also committed to reducing legal migration.
“That is why earlier this week the Government announced tough measures to limit people bringing family members with them when they come to study here. We have seen that number spiral and we will not allow it any longer.
“I am confident this action on student dependents will deliver one of the single largest reductions in net migration we have seen, but I am not complacent.
“We will keep the numbers under constant review and make sure we are using the freedoms we gained from leaving the EU.
“We took back control and created a points-based system so that we can own our future. “That means supporting our own growth and skills, not relying on foreign labour, and having an immigration system that works in the best interests of the UK.”
Net migration is up from 488,000 in 2021, according to Office for National Statistics (ONS) figures.
Last year’s record high was driven by people from non-EU countries arriving for work, study and humanitarian reasons.
The figures include people who have come to the UK from Ukraine and Hong Kong under resettlement schemes, as well as overseas students – though there are signs that those who first arrived for study reasons in 2021 are now starting to leave.
David Cameron vowed to cut net migration to under 100,000 when he was prime minister but the figure has consistently increased since he made the pledge.
Conservative MP James Daly, a member of the Home Affairs select committee, said: “At last we have a Prime Minister who is taking the concerns of my constituents seriously on legal migration and small boats.
“Rishi Sunak has put in place the policy agenda to bring numbers down and I’m confident we will see the impact in the near future.”
Conservative Aaron Bell said: “Today’s figures are too high and my constituents in Newcastle-under-Lyme will expect to see them fall.”
Conservative Louie French said: “Unsustainable levels of migration continue to have a significant impact on the likes of housing in the South East.”
Veteran Tory Sir Edward Leigh said: “Some people in the Treasury seem to think a good way to grow the economy is to fill the country up with more and more people, but this is bad for productivity and bad for British workers who are being undercut by mass migration from all over the world.”
Tory MP Martin Vickers said: “The anger and frustration of my constituents has been focused on illegal migration up until now, but that anger and frustration will grow when they consider these legal migration figures.
“We’re creating, roughly speaking, eight new parliamentary constituencies with this number and if that continues it’s clearly unsustainable.”
Members of the Common Sense group of Conservatives have asked for an urgent meeting with the Prime Minister over the record high level of migration, warning it will heap pressure on public services.
Conservative MP Sir John Hayes said the Government “has got to grasp this issue”.
“You just can’t grow the population at that pace. The pressure it places on public services and housing.
“The whole Government needs to work together to deal with unprecedented population growth, which just is not sustainable.”
Of the 1.2 million people who arrived in the UK last year, 925,000 were from outside the European Union, up from 638,000 in 2021.
More EU nationals left the UK last year – 202,000 – than arrived – 151,000.
The same was true of British nationals, with 92,000 leaving compared with 88,000 arrivals.
Jay Lindop, ONS director of the centre for international migration, said: “The main drivers of the increase were people coming to the UK from non-EU countries for work, study and for humanitarian purposes, including those arriving from Ukraine and Hong Kong. For the first time since using our new methods to measure migration, we have also included asylum seekers in our estimates, with around 1 in 12 non-EU migrants coming via this route.
“There are some signs that the underlying drivers behind these high levels of migration are changing. As lockdown restrictions were lifted in 2021, we saw a sharp increase in students arriving.
“Recent data suggests that those arriving in 2021 are now leaving the country, with the overall share of non-EU immigration for students falling in 2022.
“In contrast, those arriving on humanitarian routes increased over the 12 months. Evidence also suggests immigration has slowed in recent months, potentially demonstrating the temporary nature of these events.”
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