The United Kingdom has reached a new record high of 606,000 net migration, despite the government’s promise to reduce numbers by tightening student visa restrictions and implementing cuts.
Figures published Thursday by the country’s national statistics office showed that non-EU nationals accounted for 925,000 long-term arrivals, while 151,000 were from the European Union.
Reducing net migration was a pledge in the ruling Conservative party’s election manifesto in 2019, when the figure was 226,000. The previous figures, out in November, showed net migration was at 504,000 in the year to June.
The government has stressed that many recent arrivals are refugees from Ukraine, Afghanistan and Hong Kong. The proportion of people arriving via humanitarian routes increased from 9% to 19% in 2022, compared to the year before.
Legal migration is a contentious issue within the Conservative party. It comes as the government seeks to boost tepid economic growth and ease tightness in the labor market, which is causing challenges for businesses and driving up wages at a time of sky-high inflation.
Prime Minister Rishi Sunak has said he wants net migration below 500,000, around the level it was when he took office last fall.
However, he has clashed with his more hardline interior minister, Suella Braverman, over some proposed measures to bring down the numbers. Sunak has also stressed that migrant workers are essential to sectors including the National Health Service.
In a speech earlier this month, Braverman said: “It’s not xenophobic to say that mass and rapid migration is unsustainable in terms of housing supply, service, and community relations.” She also said Britons should be filling job roles experiencing shortages, such as lorry drivers, butchers and fruit pickers.