While the government has promised to reduce reliance on foreign labor, official numbers released on Thursday indicated that net migration in the UK touched a record 606,000 in 2022.
Prime Minister Rishi Sunak said the numbers show “too high” levels of legal immigration.
In an interview, he told ITV, “It’s as simple as that and I want to bring them down.”
He also noted that the recently announced measures to limit the number of overseas students who can bring their families with them will have a major effect.
The Brexit referendum in 2016—which resulted in the United Kingdom leaving the European Union—was fought in large part over the contentious topic of immigration, which has been a central political issue in the country for decades.
In 2021, the United Kingdom saw a net migration of 488,000 people. This is the difference between the number of people leaving and entering the country.
Events like the end of the Covid-19 outbreak and Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, according to Jay Lindop, director of the centre for international migration at the Office for National Statistics (ONS).
As a result of China’s crackdown on Hong Kong’s civil liberties, the United Kingdom loosened its entrance requirements for citizens of British overseas territories.
“A series of unprecedented world events throughout 2022 and the lifting of restrictions after the coronavirus pandemic led to record levels of international immigration to the UK,” said Lindop.
Many companies have blamed the shortage of labor on Brexit, which ended the free movement of people from EU member states.
The government has loosened immigration restrictions in an effort to fill the void, especially in the areas of agriculture and health care.
The latest numbers were described as “extraordinary” by Yvette Cooper, the home affairs spokesman for the main opposition Labour party, who also claimed that they demonstrated the government’s lack of “no plan and no grip” on the issue.
Moreover, “Ministers have completely failed to tackle skills shortages or help people back into work after Covid,” she said.
Since house construction in England has dropped to its lowest level since World War II, several members of Sunak’s ruling Conservative party have stated that current immigration levels are unsustainable.
Seriously, where are you going to put all of these people? We construct around 180,000 new dwellings annually,” ex-minister John Hayes said on BBC radio.
He went on to say, “You just can’t grow the population at that pace,” citing the strains on infrastructure like schools and hospitals as well as homes.
A increasing backlog of asylum petitions, mainly from migrants crossing the Channel from northern Europe in small boats, is adding to Sunak’s troubles.
In response to the enormous influx of 45,000 asylum seekers last year, attempts to deport them to neighboring Rwanda have stalled in the courts.
London and Kigali have an agreement whereby anyone whose asylum claim is denied will be transferred to the central African country.
Sunak predicted that “over time” the efforts his administration was taking to reduce legal migration would “bring the numbers down.”
But he said he thought the issue of failed asylum-seekers was the biggest worry for British people. Next year is likely to see a general election.
Stricter regulations for international students were implemented “alongside our other plan… to stop the boats because that’s really important,” he said.
Sunak stated that it was wasteful and expensive to put asylum seekers up in hotels while their applications are being processed.
“How can it be fair for someone to come here illegally when there are people who are waiting their turn and doing it properly?” he questioned.
We want to open our doors to the world’s most helpless people since there are so many of them. We can’t do that as long as the system is clogged with cut-ins.