10 things you need to know about immigration


Hayden Smith
Friday 22 May 2015 11:45

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.

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.


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