Sir Andew Green is Chairman of MigrationWatch UK.
Thursday’s immigration figures were disappointing for the government but by no means disastrous. They covered the year to mid-2011, which almost coincides with the first year of the Coalition government.
The figures showed that net migration is still running at about 250,000 a year. This, of course, would have very serious consequences if it were allowed to continue but it is worth pointing out that only one of the Government's measures had come into effect in that period. This was the temporary limit of about 25,000 on work permits in the year to April 2011. Even that measure (and the subsequent cap of 20,700) had no effect because the recession and general administrative confusion held the total below those limits anyway.
In the year to the end of June 2011, British net emigration increased by 22,000 while EU net immigration increased by about 8,000. Non-EU net immigration increased by 30,000, mainly due to more students from the Indian Sub-Continent.
The Government have taken comfort from a subsequent small decline in visas issued in the second half of 2011 for workers and students. This allowed them to suggest that the net migration figure will improve in the coming months.
Some reduction seems likely by the time we have the full figures for calendar 2011 (next August) but the key number – net migration – is likely to remain high at about 200,000. This number will fall further as the government’s measures take effect but there is a very long way to go. Pressure on the Government to fulfil their manifesto promise to get net migration down to tens of thousands is, to say the least, likely to intensify.