British Home Secretary Soella Braverman attends the weekly cabinet meeting at 10 Downing Street on May 23, 2023 in London, England.
Leon Neal | Getty Images News | Getty Images
LONDON – The United Kingdom’s net immigration hit a record 606,000 in 2022, despite government pledges to reduce that figure.
Figures released Thursday by the country’s national statistics office showed that non-EU nationals accounted for 925,000 of the long-term arrivals, while 151,000 were from the EU.
Reducing net immigration was a pledge in the ruling Conservative Party’s election manifesto in 2019, when the figure was 226,000. Previous figures released in November showed net immigration at 504,000 in the year to June.
The government confirmed that many of the new arrivals were refugees from Ukraine, Afghanistan and Hong Kong. The percentage of arrivals via humanitarian routes increased from 9% to 19% in 2022, compared to the previous year.
Legal immigration is a divisive issue within the Conservative Party. This comes as the government seeks to promote and facilitate tepid economic growth narrow In the labor market, causing challenges for companies and raising wages at a time of high inflation.
Prime Minister Rishi Sunak has said he wants net migration below 500,000, about the level it was when he took office last fall.
However, he has clashed with the more hawkish Home Secretary, Soella Braverman, over some of the proposed measures to bring down numbers. Sunak also stressed that migrant workers are essential for sectors including the National Health Service.
In a speech earlier this month, Braverman said, “It is not xenophobic to say that mass and rapid immigration is unsustainable in terms of housing provision, service, and community relations.” She also said Britons should fill job roles that are in short supply, such as truck drivers, butchers and fruit pickers.
On Tuesday, Braverman’s department announced restrictions on student visas, the largest source of immigration to the UK, and postgraduate students will only be able to bring family members with them into the country under the new rules.
The Home Office also said it would stop people “using a student visa as a back route to work in the UK” by preventing them from switching visa types until they have completed their studies, and by checking checks on proof of their funds.
The government says that under a points-based post-Brexit immigration system, it controls its borders and fills gaps in the labor market.
From 2025, even tourists to the UK from the European Union and foreign countries including the US will need an e-Visa to enter, with the government admitting it does not currently have accurate figures on arrivals and departures.
However, workers in many sectors say they are suffering from employment challenges exacerbated by Brexit.
Raj Segal, CEO of Norfolk-based home care group Armscare, told CNBC that job vacancies in the sector have been at record levels over the past year with more than 165,000 jobs available, along with a growing need for services and post-Covid depletion.
He said it was difficult to attract young domestic workers to rural areas where there are many care homes, and Brexit and a weaker pound had reduced the UK’s attractiveness to EU workers.
“The whole process of hiring a migrant worker is completely unfit for purpose,” said Segal, “a detriment to employers looking to grow and expand the economy.”
“It’s complicated and expensive… For the worker, it takes a long and complicated process to get a sponsor, and for the employers there’s the burden of the cost, such as an additional cost on immigration skills which is more than just a tax on employment.”
CNBC asked the Interior Department for comment on the new figures.
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