London: Annual net migration to the United Kingdom rose to 672,000 in year to the end of June 2023, official data showed, up from 607,000 a year earlier, in the latest blow to Prime Minister Rishi Sunak’s promise to reduce immigration.
Data published by the Office for National Statistics on Thursday also revised up the net migration figure for the year ending December 2022, to 745,000, a new record high and up 139,000 on its previous estimate.
“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,” a news agency said.
High levels of legal migration have for more than a decade dominated Britain’s political landscape and the issue was one of the driving forces behind the country’s 2016 vote in favour of leaving the European Union.
While it remains at such elevated levels — it is more than double the 329,000 figure recorded in 2015 ahead of the Brexit vote — it will to be seen as unwelcome news by many in Sunak’s Conservative Party in the run up to an election expected next year.
For some voters, the number of arrivals into the country and the pressure felt on public services will be a key issue.
While Sunak’s most recent focus has been on reducing illegal migration, he also wants to cut the number of people arriving legally, but labour shortages in some industries, plus the need to accommodate those arriving from Ukraine and Hong Kong under special visa schemes have made this a challenge.
The most recent net migration figures were mostly driven by migrants coming for work, to fulfil roles in the health and care sectors, while the number of arrivals on humanitarian routes fell, a news agency said.