New net migration record as figures revised

Revised figures released on Thursday showed that net migration to the UK last year hit an unprecedented 745,000, prompting the government to pledge further action to reduce legal migration.

Data from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) showed that, in the 12 months to June this year net migration stood at 672,000, which would have been a record had the bureau not upwardly revised the 2022 figure of 606,000 by 139,000.With concerns over the amount of illegal migration already running high, the latest figures led to calls from right-wing Conservative MPs for a further crackdown on visa programmes.In a strongly-worded statement, the New Conservative group of MPs demanded action, saying the immigration data "really is ‘do or die’ for our party".The group added: “The government must propose today, a comprehensive package of measures to meet the manifesto promise (to reduce immigration) by the time of the next election. We will assess any such package and report publicly on whether it will meet the promise made to the electorate." 
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Shortage Occupation List

In fact, ministers have been considering a variety of moves for some time, including abolishing the Shortage Occupation List - the fastest and cheapest way to get skilled workers from abroad. Also under consideration are increases in visa salary thresholds and limiting the number of dependants that health and care workers can bring into the country.A ban on most students bringing dependants to the UK comes into effect next year and Downing Street pointed out that the results of this initiative had yet to be felt in the migration figures.Home Secretary James Cleverly said ministers were "working across government on further measures to prevent exploitation and manipulation of our visa system, including clamping down on those that take advantage of the flexibility of the immigration system".He added that the government remained "completely committed" to reducing levels of legal migration, while also "focusing relentlessly" on illegal migration.

ONS figures reveal

The ONS figures showed that total immigration in the year to June this year was 1.2 million, while those leaving the country numbered 508,000.Among those arriving, 968,000 came from non-EU countries - 278,000 on work visas and 263,000 for study - while 129,000 came from the EU. Another 84,000 were returning Britons.The ONS said there had been notable increases in the number of immigrants getting jobs in the UK's health and care sectors. But looking at the apparent overall decline in net migration this year, it added: "While it is too early to say if this is the start of a new downward trend, these more recent estimates indicate a slowing of immigration coupled with increasing emigration."Ironically, just as the British government eyes a new clampdown on legal migration, the European Commission in Brussels has launched a campaign to make it easier for EU nations to attract overseas skills.In a statement last week, the commission said European employers were struggling to find the talent required "amidst an ageing EU population and more and more green and digital jobs that need new skills"."Of course, the EU will continue to prioritise focusing on our domestic workforce, but it is also crucial that we look abroad for certain profiles, to support our economy and strengthen important public services such as healthcare and long-term care," added the statement."That is why the Commission is proposing to make recruitment from outside the EU easier; make the process to recognise professional qualifications and skills gained in third countries faster; (and) foster learning mobility for all."Read further analysis from David Sapsted on immigration and net migration in the digital Winter issue of Think Global People/Relocate magazine out in December.

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