Net migration to the United Kingdom has climbed to a record half a million, driven by a series of “unprecedented world events”, including the war in Ukraine and the end of lockdown restrictions, according to the Office for National Statistics (ONS).
About 504,000 more people are estimated to have moved to the UK than left in the 12 months to June 2022, up sharply from 173,000 in the year to June 2021.
Other factors contributing to the jump include the resettlement of Afghan refugees, the new visa route for British nationals from Hong Kong, and students arriving from outside the European Union.
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 migrated from the UK in the same period, almost half of them – 275,000 – going back to the EU.
The imbalance means that, while far more non-EU nationals are likely to have arrived in the UK than left during these 12 months, the reverse is true for EU nationals, with more leaving than arriving.
Change in patterns
Jay Lindop, ONS deputy director of the Centre for International Migrations, said: “A series of world events have impacted 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 following transition from the EU, the war in Ukraine, the resettlement of Afghans and the new visa route for Hong Kong British nationals, which have all contributed to the record levels of long-term immigration we have seen.
“Migration from non-EU countries, specifically students, is driving this rise. 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 range of other reasons. This includes people arriving for humanitarian protection, such as those coming from Ukraine, as well as for family reasons.
“The many factors independent of each other contributing to migration at this time mean it is too early to say whether this picture will be sustained.”
Concerns over the effect of immigration were one of the big drivers behind Britain’s vote to leave the EU in 2016, with then-Prime Minister David Cameron repeatedly pledging to get net migration levels below 100,000 a year.
The previous record high for net migration was just above 330,000 in 2015.
Separate figures released by the British government on Thursday showed 33,029 people were detected arriving by small boats across the Channel between January and September this year, with 61 percent of those people arriving over the summer in the months July to September.
The month of August saw the highest number of small boat arrivals of any month since data has been collected, it said.