Sir Andrew Green is Chairman of Migrationwatch UK.
Today’s headline figure for net migration, 182,000, is up by 15,000 on the total for the same period last year. This is too small a change to be significant from a statistical point of view but, in politics, impressions are what matter.
Before gloom descends, we should acknowledge some very substantial achievements. The inflow from outside the EU has been bought steadily down from 310,000 three years ago to 240,000 in the year to mid June. Furthermore, this has been achieved with no negative effects on economic migration which has actually gone up by 3 per cent. Yet again only about half the available work permits have been taken up. As for the universities who have made an endless fuss, their applications have gone up also, by 7 per cent. Visas for colleges, the area of substantial abuse, are significantly down.
What has not changed is the non-EU outflows which have been stuck at about 100-120,000 for roughly ten years. It is now clear that a major reason for this is that students are simply not going home. Over the past five years they have arrived from outside the EU at an average annual rate of 140,000 but they seem to be leaving at only 50,000 a year.
The upshot for non-EU net migration is that is now down 36 per cent to 140,000. This is clearly the result of determined work by Theresa May and her Home Office colleagues, supported at key points by the Prime Minister.
Will it be enough to reach the target? The key now is to encourage the departure of those whose visas have expired, removing them if necessary. This will require continued focus and, probably, a significant increase in resources.
Thereafter, all depends on EU migration. When the target was set in 2009, EU migration had, for the previous decade, been largely cancelled out by British emigration. That is no longer the case. We now have net migration from the EU 15 adding to that from the Eastern Europe A8 and giving a net inflow of just over 100,000, not to speak of whoever may come from Romania and Bulgaria.
In the short term, the motivation and training of young British workers combined with enforcement of the minimum wage and fair practices in recruiting should help. Even so, there is little doubting that, in the forthcoming elections, immigration and our continued membership of the EU will become ever more inextricably linked.