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Migration at record levels as 1.1 million arrive in Britain – The Times by Matt Dathan - 24.11.22

Rishi Sunak mulls ban on visas for those taking ‘low quality courses’


Rishi Sunak is considering a crackdown on foreign students after net migration soared to a record-high of half a million this year.


Foreign students could be barred from studying “low quality degrees” and restricted from bringing their family with them under plans being considered to reduce overall immigration, Downing Street said.


The prime minister’s spokesman said the government would consider all options to reduce numbers after figures published by the Office for National Statistics showed total immigration reached an estimated 1.1 million in the year to June.


An estimated 560,000 people emigrated, leaving net migration at a record 504,000 in the past 12 months.


That is more than double the 239,000 net migration recorded in the previous 12 months and higher than the pre-Brexit record of 336,000 in March 2015.


The figures will pile further pressure on Rishi Sunak and Suella Braverman, the home secretary, to introduce fresh measures following the prime minister’s pledge to cut overall immigration, a key Conservative Party manifesto commitment at the last election.


The estimates published by the ONS are significantly higher than the 224,000 that the Office for Budget Responsibility predicted for next year as part of last week’s autumn statement. It projected that net migration would fall to 205,000 by 2026.


The ONS said the record was driven by a set of “unique” factors such as the two visa schemes for Ukrainians fleeing the war with Russia, the post-pandemic resumption of international travel and Britain’s transition to a new points-based immigration system post-Brexit.


The bespoke visa scheme for Hong Kong citizens fleeing oppressive Beijing security laws has also contributed to the numbers moving to the UK.


The number of foreign students granted visas to the UK has risen to a record high of 476,000 in the 12 months to September, according to separate Home Office figures published today. This is 76 per cent higher than the last pre-pandemic year of 2019.


Downing Street insisted that Sunak still wanted to bring overall immigration levels down and blamed “unprecedented and unique circumstances” for the record high.


The spokesman pointed to Home Office statistics showing that the UK helped to safety more than 144,000 people from Hong Kong, 144,600 from Ukraine and 22,000 from Afghanistan in the year to June.


“The prime minister is fully committed to bringing overall numbers down,” the spokesman said. “There are some unprecedented and unique circumstances which are having a significant impact on these statistics.


“The prime minister has said he wants net migration to reduce, he has not put a specific timeframe on that.”


Indians have for the first time overtaken the Chinese as the biggest nationality of foreign students. There was also a large increase in Nigerian students.


People arriving on study visas accounted for the largest proportion of long-term immigration of non-EU nationals, at 277,000 people, or 39 per cent of the total — up from 143,000 in the previous 12 months.


This may reflect “built-up demand” from international students who want to travel to the UK but studied remotely in the early stages of the pandemic. The increase might also be influenced by the new graduate visa route, where students can apply to work in the UK for up to three years after completing their studies, the ONS said.


Madeleine Sumption, director of the Migration Observatory at the University of Oxford, warned observers not to interpret the record numbers as a “new normal”.


She said: “All the forecasts suggested that migration would fall as a result of the post-Brexit immigration scheme, which greatly restricted the options for EU citizens to move to the UK.


And indeed, EU net migration remains negative. But non-EU migration has risen, primarily not because of the policies designed to replace EU free movement. The humanitarian routes for Ukraine and Hong Kong and a rebound in international students have played the largest role in boosting immigration levels.


“These unusually high levels of net migration result from a unique set of circumstances following the war in Ukraine and the recovery from the Covid-19 crisis. We cannot assume they represent a ‘new normal’, and it would be rash to take major policy decisions based only on these numbers. Some of the most important contributors to non-EU immigration are not expected to continue indefinitely, such as the arrival of Ukrainians.”



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Net migration at record levels as 1
.1 million arrive in Britain – The Times by Matt Dathan
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Foreign students, Ukrainians fleeing war and Hongkongers escaping Chinese rule have driven migration figures to new highs

TIMES PHOTOGRAPHER RICHARD POHLE/GETTY IMAGES

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