The Government has unveiled new plans to control the numbers of people coming to the UK, as figures revealed net migration continues to rise. Here, we look at the issue that is again at the top of the political agenda:
1. What is net migration?
It is the difference between the number of people arriving in the UK and the number leaving.
2. How many people are coming to the UK?
The latest estimates from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) show that 641,000 people arrived in the UK in 2014. An estimated 323,000 people emigrated, giving a net migration figure of 318,000.
3. How does the net migration figure compare to other years?
For a calendar year, it is the highest since current records started almost 40 years ago in 1975. It is the second highest for any 12 month period, only slightly lower than the peak figure of 320,000 recorded in the year ending June 2005.
4. Didn't David Cameron say he would bring the figure down to tens of thousands?
Yes, in 2010 he made the pledge to reduce net migration to five figures - “no ifs, no buts”. This has proved uncomfortable for the Tories as the target appeared to move further from their grasp with every new batch of data. The party's rhetoric on the issue has subtly but significantly changed as the size of the task has become clear. Their manifesto described cutting net migration to the tens of thousands as an “ambition”.
5. Why is the number of people coming to the UK going up?
Analysts believe the relative success of the UK economy, particularly relative to the rest of the EU, is a major factor in the rise. Figures show that almost half of the immigrants who came to Britain last year did so for work purposes. Recent labour force figures showed that the total number of non-UK nationals working in the UK was 3.09 million in the first three months of this year - a rise of 294,000 compared to the same period in 2014.
6. What other reasons do immigrants come for?
Figures show that 193,000 immigrants arrived to study last year, while 91,000 came to accompany or join others.
10 things immigration has done for Britain
10 things immigration has done for Britain
1/10 The Mini
The 1959 classic, that is, perhaps our greatest piece of industrial design, a miracle of packaging and revolution in motoring. Its genius designer was Sir Alec Issigonis, who was an asylum seeker. His family, Greek, fled Smyrna when Turks invaded this borderland in around 1920, and he wound up studying engineering at Battersea Polytechnic. He went on to create that most English of motor cars, the Morris Minor, as well as the Austin-Morris 1100, all much loved products of his fertile imagination.
2/10 Marks and Spencer
Once upon a time there was no M&S in Britain, difficult as that may be to believe. We have one Michael Marks to thank for our most famous retailer, and he was a refugee from Belarus, arriving in England in about 1882, and soon after set off to flog stuff around Yorkshire. He eventually teamed with Thomas Spencer to create the vast business we know today.
And many other TV shows created, funded and otherwise produced by that largest of larger-than-life characters, Lew Grade (also a world class tap dancer). The man who dominated commercial television gave us memorable entertainment such as The Prisoner, the Saint and brought the Muppets to Britain (a sort of fuzzy felt wave of immigration), as well as puppet shows where you could see the strings. All this from a penniless Jew from Ukraine, born Lev Winogradsky, who escaped the pogroms in Ukraine with his family in the 1890s. His nephew Michael Grade has also done his bit for British television.
4/10 The House of Windsor
Or the House of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha until George V prudently rebranded the family during the First World War. Well, our royals are a pretty German bunch, as well as having various types of French and other alien blue blood coursing around their veins. ‘Twas ever thus. There was William the Conqueror, Norman French, who certainly broke the immigration rules; William of Orange, a direct import from Holland; the Hanoverian King Georges, the first barely able to speak English; Queen Victoria, who married a German, Edward VII, who couldn’t stay faithful to his wife, a Danish princess; George V wed another German princess; Edward VIII married an American (though she hardly visited England and prompted his emigration and exile); and the Queen is married to man born in Corfu. The embodiment of the British nation, to many, but one thinks of them as quite multicultural really.
5/10 I Vow To Thee My Country
Our most patriotic hymn was the product of a man named Gustav Holst (pictured), born in Cheltenham, but of varied Swedish, Latvian and German ancestry, who adapted part of his suite The Planets to put a particularly stirring and beautiful poem to music, just after the Great War. As the second verse has it, “there's another country/I've heard of long ago/Most dear to them that love her/most great to them that know”. Imagine if the Holst family had been kept out because the quota on musical European types had been reached.
6/10 Curry and Cobra
Chicken Tikka Masala is, so they say, a dish which not only the most popular in Britain but specifically designed to cater for European tastes. For that we probably have to thank an Indian migrant, Sake Dean Mahomed, who came from Bengal to open the first recognisable Indian restaurant, the magnificently named “Hindoostanee Coffee House”. History does not record if a plate of poppadoms and accompanying selection of pickles and yoghurts were routinely placed on the table for new diners, but we do know that we had to wait until 1989 to taste the ideal lager for a curry - Cobra. That brew was brought to us by Karan (now Lord) Bilimoria, a Cambridge law graduate who hailed from Hyderabad.
7/10 That big red swirly sculpture at the Olympic Park
Or Orbit, to give it its proper name, the work of Anish Kapoor, who arrived in 1973 from India and had the artistic imagination to fill a power station.
8/10 The Sun
Love it or hate it, and many do both, this has been a symbol of much that is successful and a lot that is awful in British journalism since its inception in 1969. In its turn it spawned the Page 3 Girl and some nastily xenophobic headlines. All the stranger when you consider its creator was, of course, Rupert Murdoch, born 11 March 1931 in Melbourne, Australia.
OK, Karl Marx’s philosophy was not much of a gift to the world, but for a while it seemed like a good idea. Though we might not dare admit it, Marxism still has a few insights to offer to anyone wanting to understand the workings of capitalism, though too few to excuse everything that was done in its name. Born in Germany spent much time in the British museum and the British pub, buried Highgate Cemetery. Oddly, his ideas never really caught on in his adopted homeland.
10/10 The NHS
They came from many, many backgrounds, including Ireland, the Philippines, east Europe, the Indian subcontinent, and Africa, as they still do, but the contribution of the black nurses who came to the UK from the Caribbean to heal and care for is a debt of honour that must be recognised. It so sometimes forgotten that it was Enoch Powell, then Minister of Health (1960-62), who campaigned to recruit their skilled nurses to come and work over here. One abiding legacy we can thank Enoch for.
7. What about benefits?
Claims have repeatedly been made that Britain is a centre for “benefit tourism”. The mayor of Calais, Natacha Bouchart, said in March that migrants in the French town want to cross the Channel because "they can expect better conditions than anywhere else in Europe". An official estimate of the number of foreigners claiming benefits has not been provided. Data suggests that as of February last year, 7.4 per cent of the 5.3 million working age benefits claimants - 395,420 - were non-UK nationals when they first registered for a National Insurance number.
8. How much do immigrants contribute to the economy?
A study by University College London found in November that European immigrants to the UK have paid more in taxes than they received in benefits, with those who arrived since 2000 contributing more than £20 billion to public finances over the decade to 2011.
9. How many illegal immigrants are there?
No official figure has been given because of difficulties tracking the number of people who enter or remain in the country illegally. Previous estimates include 430,000 in 2001 and 618,000 in 2007.
10. What's all this about "radical" new laws?
David Cameron has announced a package of measures aimed at dealing with immigration. It includes subjecting foreign criminals who face deportation to tagging and tracking by satellites and a new offence of illegal working to give police powers to seize wages from illegal migrants.