ONS: Immigration into Britain in the 00s was nearly 350,000 higher than previously thought


Net migration into the UK during the previous decade was 346,000 higher than previously claimed after officials failed to properly count new arrivals landing at regional airports, according to new figures from the Office for National Statistics.

The embarrassing miscalculation reveals an influx equivalent to the population of Cardiff and has fuelled persistent claims that immigration from Eastern Europe under Labour was far higher than earlier official estimates suggested.

The ONS blamed the error on the “inadequate sampling” of passengers. Statisticians focused too heavily on counting migrants touching down at the major airports of Heathrow, Gatwick and Manchester.

This was despite the budget air revolution of the post-millennium decade which had witnessed spectacular growth in the number of low-cost carriers setting up new routes.

Many of these were from new European Union countries and connected with airports such as Luton, Stansted as well as Doncaster, Sheffield, Bournemouth and Southampton. Regional hubs witnessed dramatic increase in passenger numbers in the first half of the decade when it was estimated four out of 10 arrivals touched down at a local airport.

A spokesman for David Cameron said the Prime Minister had full confidence in the work of the ONS which compiles official data for Government policymakers.

Mr Cameron who is under mounting pressure to curb rising numbers of migrants amid a growing challenge from the UK Independence Party and within his own party, has pledged to reduce the net numbers of new arrivals to below 100,000 by 2015. The latest figures suggest the task could be more difficult than thought.

“What the latest ONS statistics underline is the point at which, in the 2000s, immigration was out of control,” a Downing Street spokesman said.

The figures examined the number of migrants coming to the UK between 2001 and 2011. The original figures were based on the International Passenger Survey (IPS) originally developed in the 1960s to track population movements in and out of the UK.

However. the number of routes connecting UK airports with Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Slovakia and Slovenia – which acceded to the EU in 2004 - increased from 30 in 2001 to a peak of 190 in 2007. This meant citizens arriving at regional airports from these countries in the four years from 2004-08 were not counted in the official data.

The ONS also found estimates of migrant children under 15 arriving at the major airports were too low.

Carlos Vargas Silva, a senior researcher at the Migration Observatory at Oxford University, said: "We have known for some time that net migration must have been much higher during the 2001 to 2011 period than the official estimates had suggested. “This report provides important evidence of the need for better migration data and of the limitations of using a survey to develop net migration data."

Under the new counting system immigration into the UK peaked in 2006 at 265,000.when the number of arrivals was 67,000 higher than suggested by the original estimates. It had previously been thought that net migration was at its highest in 2010 when the figure was 252,000. Last year net migration increased to 212,000 – up from 154,000 the previous year.

Sir Andrew Green, chairman and founder of campaigners Migration Watch, said: "This is final confirmation that net foreign migration under Labour totals nearly four million, two thirds from outside the European Union.

"It also shows that the peak of net migration was nearly 275,000 a year, making it even more difficult for the present Government to get the numbers down to tens of thousands."

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Guru Careers: Software Developer / C# Developer

£40-50K: Guru Careers: We are seeking an experienced Software / C# Developer w...

Guru Careers: Software Developer

£35 - 40k + Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking a Software Developer (JavaS...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant / Resourcer

£18000 - £23000 per annum + Commission: SThree: As a Trainee Recruitment Consu...

Ashdown Group: UI Developer - (UI, HTML, CSS, JavaScript, AngularJS)

£25000 - £40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: UI Developer - (UI, JavaScript, HTML...

Day In a Page

Abuse - and the hell that came afterwards

Abuse - and the hell that follows

James Rhodes on the extraordinary legal battle to publish his memoir
Why we need a 'tranquility map' of England, according to campaigners

It's oh so quiet!

The case for a 'tranquility map' of England
'Timeless fashion': It may be a paradox, but the industry loves it

'Timeless fashion'

It may be a paradox, but the industry loves it
If the West needs a bridge to the 'moderates' inside Isis, maybe we could have done with Osama bin Laden staying alive after all

Could have done with Osama bin Laden staying alive?

Robert Fisk on the Fountainheads of World Evil in 2011 - and 2015
New exhibition celebrates the evolution of swimwear

Evolution of swimwear

From bathing dresses in the twenties to modern bikinis
Sun, sex and an anthropological study: One British academic's summer of hell in Magaluf

Sun, sex and an anthropological study

One academic’s summer of hell in Magaluf
From Shakespeare to Rising Damp... to Vicious

Frances de la Tour's 50-year triumph

'Rising Damp' brought De la Tour such recognition that she could be forgiven if she'd never been able to move on. But at 70, she continues to flourish - and to beguile
'That Whitsun, I was late getting away...'

Ian McMillan on the Whitsun Weddings

This weekend is Whitsun, and while the festival may no longer resonate, Larkin's best-loved poem, lives on - along with the train journey at the heart of it
Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath in a new light

Songs from the bell jar

Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath
How one man's day in high heels showed him that Cannes must change its 'no flats' policy

One man's day in high heels

...showed him that Cannes must change its 'flats' policy
Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Dominic Rossi of Fidelity says his pressure on business to control rewards is working. But why aren’t other fund managers helping?
The King David Hotel gives precious work to Palestinians - unless peace talks are on

King David Hotel: Palestinians not included

The King David is special to Jerusalem. Nick Kochan checked in and discovered it has some special arrangements, too
More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years

End of the Aussie brain drain

More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years
Meditation is touted as a cure for mental instability but can it actually be bad for you?

Can meditation be bad for you?

Researching a mass murder, Dr Miguel Farias discovered that, far from bringing inner peace, meditation can leave devotees in pieces
Eurovision 2015: Australians will be cheering on their first-ever entrant this Saturday

Australia's first-ever Eurovision entrant

Australia, a nation of kitsch-worshippers, has always loved the Eurovision Song Contest. Maggie Alderson says it'll fit in fine