British Home Secretary Suella 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 – UK net migration is set to hit a record 606,000 in 2022, despite government pledges to cut the figure.
Figures released by the country’s national statistics office on Thursday showed that 925,000 long-term arrivals were non-EU nationals, while 151,000 were from the European Union.
Reducing net migration was a promise in the ruling Conservative Party’s 2019 election manifesto, when it stood at 226,000. Previous figures from November showed net migration was 504,000 in the year to June.
The government has emphasized that many of the recent arrivals are refugees from Ukraine, Afghanistan and Hong Kong. The share of people arriving via humanitarian routes increased from 9% to 19% in 2022 compared to the previous year.
Legal migration is a contentious issue for the Conservative Party. It comes as the government seeks to strengthen tepid economic growth and ease tightness in the labor market, which poses problems for businesses and raises wages skyrocketing 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 his hard-line home secretary, Suella Braverman, over some proposed measures to reduce numbers. Sunak also emphasized 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 migration is unsustainable in terms of housing supply, services and community relations.” She also said Britons should take up jobs in short supply, such as lorry drivers, butchers and fruit pickers.
Braverman’s department on Tuesday announced restrictions on student visas, the biggest source of migration to the UK Only postgraduate research students will be able to bring family members into the country with them under the new rules.
The Home Office also said it would ban people from “using student visas as a back door to work in the UK” by preventing them from changing visa types until their studies have finished and will carry out checks on their financial documents.
The government says it has control over its borders and fills gaps in the labor market under its post-Brexit points-based immigration system.
From 2025 even tourists to the UK from the EU and foreign countries including the US you will need an electronic visa to enterwith the government admitting that it currently does not have accurate figures on arrivals and departures.
‘Not fit for purpose’
However, workers in many sectors say they are facing recruitment challenges that have been exacerbated by Brexit.
Raj Sehgal, chief executive of Norfolk-based care home group Armscare, told CNBC that vacancies in the sector were at a record high over the past year with more than 165,000 places available, combined with rising demand for services and post-Covid burnout.
It is difficult to attract young domestic workers to rural areas where many care homes are located, he said, and Brexit and a weaker pound have reduced the UK’s appeal to EU workers.
“The whole process of employing a migrant worker is completely unfit for purpose and hurts employers who want to grow and expand the economy,” Sehgal said.
“It’s complicated and expensive … it requires a lengthy and complex process for the worker to get a sponsor, and it’s a cost burden for the employer, like an immigration skills levy that acts as more than an employment tax.”
CNBC asked the Home Office for comment on the new numbers.