Tuesday, 23 Apr 2024

Rishi weighs up action plan as net migration expected to reach record high

Rishi Sunak has said he is pondering courses of action as his government braces for net migration figures that are expected to smash the previous record high.

Reports suggest the Office for National Statistic (ONS) will reveal this week that at least 700,000 more people arrived legally in the UK in the 12 months leading up to December last year than left it.

That figure would beat the current record of 500,000 – set in the year up to June 2022 – by around 40%.

Speaking to reporters in Japan as his trip to the G7 summit continues, the prime minister said he wanted to be ‘crystal clear’ with the public that the ‘numbers are too high’ and he wants to ‘bring them down’.

At the 2019 general election, the Conservative Party manifesto promised that ‘overall numbers [of migrants] will come down’ following the introduction of post-Brexit border controls.

But the net migration when that pledge was made was 226,000 – far below the anticipated figure this year.

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In Hiroshima, Mr Sunak told reporters he would not be able to discuss ‘specific measures’ that were being considered by the government, but that they could expect an announcement on a plan ‘shortly’.

He said: ‘I’m considering a range of options to bring the numbers down.

‘We’ll have more to say on that shortly.

‘But let me be unequivocal that future numbers of legal migration are too high and I’m committed and the government is committed to bringing those numbers down.’

Among the measures reportedly being looked at by the government are changes to the terms of study visas.

Data from the ONS shows people arriving on such visas accounted for the largest proportion (39%) of long-term immigration by non-EU nationals in the year to June 2022.

A graduate visa allows one-year masters students to bring spouses and children with them, and their family can stay on with them for another two years after the course is over if they are able to find employment.

Reports suggest ministers are planning to stop that from happening at UK universities, in a move aimed at curbing the numbers coming from countries such as India and Nigeria.

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