Rishi Sunak vows to cut immigration as figures hit a record high of over six lakhs
- In Reports
- 10:46 PM, May 25, 2023
- Myind Staff
In 2022, net migration in the UK reached a record high of 606,000, according to official numbers released on Thursday. This increased pressure on the government, which has vowed to reduce reliance on foreign labor.
Responding to the figures, Prime Minister Rishi Sunak described legal immigration levels as “too high.”
“It’s as simple as that and I want to bring them down,” he told ITV in an interview.
He noted that the restrictions put in place earlier this week on the number of overseas students who are permitted to bring their families along would have a big effect.
In the UK, immigration has always been a contentious political subject, and in 2016, when the country voted to leave the EU, it was one of the prominent debate topics.
In 2021, net migration -- the difference between the number of people leaving the UK and those arriving -- was 488,000.
The end of the Covid-19 outbreak, and Russia's invasion of Ukraine, according to Jay Lindop, director of the Office for National Statistics (ONS) Centre for international migration, both contributed to the rise.
"A series of unprecedented world events throughout 2022 and the lifting of restrictions following the coronavirus pandemic led to record levels of international immigration to the UK," said Lindop.
Brexit ended the practice of allowing citizens of EU member states to migrate freely, which many firms have since attributed to a labour shortage.
Brexit brought an end to the policy of free movement of people from EU member states, which many businesses have since blamed for a shortage of workers.
Agriculture and the health and social care industries have been among the hardest hit, leading the government to soften immigration laws in an effort to close the gap.
Right-wingers are pressuring Sunak to impose immigration restrictions because they believe the current levels are unsustainable.
His problems are made worse by a mounting backlog in the Home Office's handling of asylum requests, particularly those made by immigrants traveling over the English Channel from northern Europe in tiny boats.
Attempts to send failed asylum seekers to Rwanda, prompted by an unprecedented 45,000 arrivals last year, have been stuck in the courts.
As part of a pact between London and Kigali, no one who had their asylum request denied thus far has been deported to the country in central Africa.
Separate figures also released on Thursday showed that the number of outstanding asylum claims at the end of March 2023 stood at just over 172,000 -- up 57 percent from some 109,000 the previous year.
Of the 172,000 waiting for an initial decision, nearly 129,000 were waiting for more than six months -- a 76 percent increase in the same period to March 2022.
Sunak asserted that he was certain that the steps his administration was taking to reduce legal immigration would eventually "bring the numbers down."
But he asserted that in his opinion, UK voters were more concerned about the problem of failed asylum seekers.
Measures such as tightening the rules on overseas students went "alongside our other plan... to stop the boats because that's really important", he added.
Sunak argued that housing asylum-seekers in hotels, while their applications are processed, was costing large sums of taxpayers' money and diverting resources from others.
Image source: AP