In 2022, Britain recorded a record number of immigration of 606,000 people, which puts the conservative government, which promised to reduce the flow of immigrants and “restore control of the borders” after Brexit, under pressure.
After the British Office for National Statistics published these figures Thursday, Prime Minister Rishi Sunak responded by saying on ITV that “the numbers are simply too high, and I want them to go down.”
The government is being criticized as the labor opposition accuses it of having lost control over the immigration phenomenon.
According to the Statistics Office, “the most prominent factors in this increase are people coming to Britain from non-EU countries to work, study, or for humanitarian reasons, including those from Ukraine and Hong Kong.”
“An unprecedented series of global events (…) and the lifting of restrictions following the Covid pandemic have led to record levels of international migration to Britain,” the statistics office added.
Last year, there were 1.2 million arrivals in Britain, while 557,000 people left the country.
The majority of arrivals in 2022 came from countries outside the European Union (925,000), and the 151,000 European Union citizens came in second place.
In 2021, the number of migrants reached 488,000, compared to 606,000 in 2022.
Two days before these record numbers were announced, the government announced severe restrictions on family reunification for foreign students. This measure, which will come into effect in January, covers all students, with the exception of postgraduate researchers.
And in 2022, about 136,000 entry visas were issued to foreign students, compared to 16,000 in 2019, according to government figures.
In addition, international students will no longer be able to transfer from a student visa to a work visa before completing their studies.
Rishi Sunak said the measures were “more effective than anything previously announced in the fight against immigration”.
Right-wing Interior Minister Soyla Braverman said Tuesday that the new measures constitute a “fair balance” and will make it possible “in the medium term” to return immigration numbers to the pre-Covid level.
– Labor shortage –
The issue of immigration and border control dominated the debate during the 2016 Brexit campaign that led to Brexit. It also appears to be a sensitive issue in the upcoming legislative elections next year.
Successive conservative governments have failed to curb legal or illegal immigration.
In 2022, more than 45,000 immigrants, also in a record number, crossed the Channel illegally. “Stop the Ships” was one of Rishi Sunak’s five priorities.
The government also wants to send some asylum seekers to third countries such as Rwanda, but this project, which has been challenged before the courts, is at a dead end.
The government also has a project to prevent illegal immigrants from seeking asylum in Britain and to facilitate their detention and deportation.
Meanwhile, Britain faces a labor shortage, particularly in the agricultural and health sectors, which raises regular tensions within the majority.
For their part, British companies have been calling for months to ease the visa policy in Britain, because there are hotels, restaurants, land transport companies, or farms that have suffered, since Brexit and Covid-19, a serious shortage of labor.
Rishi Sunak recently conceded that he would have to grant tens of thousands of seasonal farming visas, apparently at odds with the Home Secretary’s position.
Soella Braverman spoke in mid-May at a conference of ultraconservatives to declare that she “does not see a good reason why Britain cannot train truck drivers and fruit pickers from within in order to reduce immigration.”
Sunak promised on ITV that people would be trained in Britain to work in sectors facing difficulties.