Non-EU migration to UK hits record high

What's driving the latest UK immigration trends? Plus, more about shifting perspectives on immigration to the UK, as a result of Covid-19.

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Net migration to the UK last year by people from nations outside the European Union reached its highest level since records began in 1975, official data revealed on Thursday.

Upward trend for non-EU migration began in 2013

The Office for National Statistics (ONS) said that net migration from outside the EU increased to 282,000 in 2019, reflecting an upward trend that began in 2013.Total gross immigration from non-EU nations reached 404,000 - also the highest figure recorded since records began 45 years ago, when the total was 93,000.Much of the recent increase in arrivals was attributed to the increase in the number of students from China and India coming to study at UK universities.By contrast, the ONS has repeatedly reported since the 2016 Brexit referendum that the number of people arriving from EU countries for work has "steadily fallen".

ONS data classified as "experimental"

However, the ONS said on Thursday that the latest data were classified as experimental estimates after the statistics body was forced to admit last year that it had under-estimated some EU net migration data in 2016-17.Jay Lindop, director of the Centre for International Migration at the ONS, said, "Overall migration levels have remained broadly stable in recent years, but new patterns have emerged for EU and non-EU migrants since 2016."For the year ending December 2019, non-EU migration was at the highest level we have seen, driven by a rise in students from China and India, while the number of people arriving from EU countries for work has steadily fallen."We know the coronavirus pandemic has had a significant impact on travel since December and new analysis today shows how international travel to and from the UK has decreased in recent months."

Oxford study highlights shifting attitudes towards migrants in the UK

Release of the data coincided with publication of a report from the University of Oxford's Centre on Migration, Policy and Society (COMPAS) which suggested attitudes towards migrants could have been re-shaped during the Covid-19 crisis and could have a significant impact on future political decision-making about immigration policy.Highlighting the role of foreign-born staff in the health and social care sectors, the report said some 18.2% of essential health staff and 15.7% of essential social workers and residential care staff were from overseas.Written by Mariña Fernández-Reino, Madeleine Sumption and Carlos Vargas-Silva, the report said, "It may be that the political impacts of the crisis – how it affects attitudes towards migrant workers and their contributions to society and the economy – will in the long run be more important than any change to policymakers’ understanding of how the crisis affects the economics of migration."Governments should consider the role of migration alongside other potential solutions to labour demand in essential industries. These include whether demand can be met from the domestic labour force by increasing wages and improving working conditions, or by relying on labour-saving technologies."

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