Migration to UK rises to record 504,000 with Ukraine and Hong Kong schemes | Immigration and asylum

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Net migration to the UK has reached a record high of 504,000 following the arrival of Ukrainians and Hong Kongers under government schemes and a jump in international student numbers.

Asylum applications are at a 32-year high, but almost 100,000 people are waiting more than six months for their initial applications to be processed, official government data shows.

The new net migration figure published by The Office for National Statistics (ONS) is an increase of 331,000 in a single year and is at least 400,000 more than the Home Secretary, Suella Braverman, is aiming for. She promised in September that she would try to get total migration down to “tens of thousands”.

It comes a few days after the Prime Minister, Rishi Sunak, promised to reduce overall migration – a promise previously made by David Cameron and Theresa May but never achieved.

Around 504,000 more people are estimated to have moved to the UK than back in the 12 months to June 2022, a sharp increase from 173,000 in the year to June 2021. The total is significantly higher than the 224,000 forecast by the Budget Office for next year Accountability ( OBR).

The increase stems from a rise in visas for foreign nationals to live, study and work in Britain, which for the first time exceeded 1 million in the year to June.

A total of 1.1 million people are likely to have migrated to the UK in the year to June, the majority – 704,000 – from outside the EU. By contrast, 560,000 people are estimated to have left the UK in the same period, with almost half – 275,000 – returning to the EU.

The imbalance means that while far more non-EU nationals are likely to have arrived in the UK than left during those 12 months, the reverse is the case for EU nationals, with more departures than arrivals.

The ONS said the UK was living through a “unique” period in which travel was recovering from Covid 19. The statistics also show that the number of people applying for asylum – 72,027 – was the highest for almost 20 years.

The backlog of asylum decisions is now 143,377, with almost 98,000 people waiting for more than six months. Just 41% of applications for asylum come from people who have traveled to the UK in small boats, the statistics show.

Jay Lindop, ONS deputy director of the center for international migration, said: “A number of world events have affected international migration patterns in the 12 months to June 2022. Taken together, these were unprecedented.

“These include the end of lockdown restrictions in the UK, the first full period after the transition from the EU, the war in Ukraine, the resettlement of Afghans and the new visa route for Hong Kong British citizens, all of whom have contributed to the record levels of long-term immigration we have seen.

“Migration from non-EU countries, particularly students, is driving this increase. With the lifting of travel restrictions in 2021, more students arrived in the UK after studying remotely during the Covid-19 pandemic.

“However, there has also been a large increase in the number of people migrating for a number of other reasons. This includes people arriving for humanitarian protection, such as those coming from Ukraineas well as for family reasons.

“The many factors, independent of each other, contributing to migration at present mean that it is too early to say whether this picture will be maintained.”

Enver Solomon, the head of the Refugee Council, said: “These statistics once again underline the government’s neglect and mismanagement of the asylum system.

“The number of men, women and children now living in limbo has increased by 20,000 in just three months, meaning 143,000 are now waiting for a first decision on their case, while just under 98,000 are waiting more than six months.

“Given that the number of asylum applications agreed is at a 32-year high – reflecting the global refugee crisis with millions of people fleeing their homes due to war, conflict and persecution – these new Home office statistics underline why urgent government action is so important.”

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