Often media propaganda paints a very different picture about UK immigration than what the actual numbers represent. Recent figures released by the Home Office are enlightening, specifically when viewed in light of Government promises about curtailing immigration and immigration policy more generally.
What is often misperceived is the number of asylum seekers making applications in the UK. The year ending March 2015 saw 25,020 asylum applications in the UK. The largest number of asylum applications came from nationals of Eritrea (3,552), followed by Pakistan (2,421) and Syria (2,222). Although the number of asylum applications in 2015 is a slight increase from the previous year, applications remain significantly low relative to other EU countries.
Statistics from Eurostat in 2014 indicate that the UK received only 31,745 asylum applications compared to Hungary (42,775), France (64,310), Italy (64,625), Sweden (81,180) and Germany (202,645). Germany is expecting that number to rise sharply this year to a record-breaking 750,000 and UNHCR has recently reported that a record 158,456 refugees and migrants have arrived by sea in Greece since January this year alone. These numbers are quite staggering in comparison to the UK. It is no surprise then that there is talk of introducing national border controls and a wider push for the EU to agree on a refugee plan so that other EU countries step up to assist in taking in more refugees.
The Office of National Statistics (ONS) estimates that from 2013 to 2014, net migration to the UK (i.e. immigration less emigration)increased by just over 100,000 to a total of 318,000. Immigration was significantly higher for EU (non-British) citizens and non-EU citizens. In total, over half a million people immigrated to the UK in 2014 (641,000), with almost half (approx. 44%) of that figure immigrating for work alone.
The number of non-EU nationals migrating to the UK for work in 2014 was significantly higher than the previous year. In total, 68,000 non-EU nationals came to the UK for work in 2014. The Home Office states that the increase was largely due to a higher number of skilled work visas and youth mobility visas being issued. These statistics seem to cast a very different picture to the rhetoric that is often put forward about immigration control by the Government of the day. It appears the "tough" policies that were intended to reduce net migration have in fact not achieved their objective.
In 2014, there was also a large increase in the number of immigrants coming to the UK to accompany or join others, a total increase of 20,000 from the previous year.
Other significant statistics reveal that there has been a steady declinein the number of enforced removals from the UK since 2011. The largest proportion of those departing the UK since the end of 2009 is represented by voluntary departures. The question is whether this will increase in view of new policies requiring landlords, employers, banks and others to conduct immigration checks in an effort to locate illegal migrants.
It appears that a balance needs to be struck between controlling net migration whilst also ensuring the UK complies with its international legal obligations to give genuine asylum seekers a place to seek refuge, particularly in view of the current migration emergency now being faced by the EU.