New figures from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) show that net migration to the UK in the year ending March 2014 stood at 243,000, its highest level since 2011. This makes it effectively impossible for the government to achieve its “tens of thousands” target by the end of this parliament without radical measures, but is likely to be associated with the UK’s strong growth in comparison to other large EU economies, the Migration Observatory at the University of Oxford said today.
The ONS data show that the biggest increase in immigration was from people travelling from EU countries, particularly ‘old EU’ countries and A2 countries – Romania and Bulgaria. The number of migrants from EU countries is estimated to have increased by 44,000 to 214,000.
The largest number of migrants (228,000) in the year ending March 2014 came to the UK for work purposes, with 177,000 coming for study while family reunion increased to 83,000 compared to the year ending March 2013, when it stood at 59,000.
The increase in EU migrants for work purposes is likely to be linked to employment opportunities created by the UK’s recent economic growth, which has been relatively strong in comparison to other large EU economies and to comparatively high unemployment in some Eurozone countries.
Immigration of nationals from the “A2” countries – Romania and Bulgaria – stood at 28,000, an increase from 12,000 in the year to March 2013. However it should be noted that this does not show a clear increase since January 1st 2014 – when restrictions on A2 migrants’ rights to work in the UK were lifted – as the data also includes nine months from 2013.
Dr Carlos Vargas-Silva, Senior Researcher at the Migration Observatory at the University Of Oxford said: “Net migration has increased again, and is now close to the levels when the current government took office, suggesting that that the government’s net migration target of under 100,000 is now effectively impossible to hit.
“The UK’s comparatively strong economic growth is attracting EU nationals, who have a right to live and work in the UK, to the British labour market – a very important factor in this increase.”