Saturday, November 26, 2011

Net migration to Britain hits a record 252,000, despite PM's vow to slash numbers

David Cameron was facing a new headache yesterday after it emerged that net migration hit a record 252,000 last year.

The Prime Minister – who has promised to reduce the figure to the ‘tens of thousands’ – now faces a bigger challenge than when the Tories came to power. In 2009, Labour’s last full year in office, net migration – the difference between the number of people entering the UK and the number leaving – was just under 200,000.

Mr Cameron, who conceded that hitting his pledge may now take ‘some time’, has once again been hit by the global economic downturn.

The number arriving in the UK, which includes immigrants and Britons returning from more than a year overseas, remained broadly stable at 591,000 last year. But the number leaving – only 339,000 – was at its lowest for ten years, so net migration was 252,000.

Emigration for work fell to its lowest level since 2006, reflecting the chaos in the eurozone and other countries where people would normally seek employment.

The number of British citizens emigrating was 136,000, its lowest since 1998. Emigration by non-Britons was 203,000, a drop of 25,000 on 2009. If net migration remains at 2010 levels, the population will swell by one million every four years.

The previous high for a calendar year was 245,000 in 2004 – although mid-year data for the 12 months to June 2005 reached 260,000.

Labour said the figures showed the Government could ‘not be trusted’ to bring immigration under control.

Sir Andrew Green, chairman of the campaign group Migrationwatch, said: ‘Net migration in 2010 was more than five times the level of 1997 when Labour came to power. ‘It is absolutely vital to get this down to less than 40,000 if we are to keep our population below 70million.’

The data came from the Office for National Statistics, which also released provisional figures for the 12 months to both March 2011 and September 2011. These showed net migration falling slightly, giving a glimmer of hope to the Tories. Immigration Minister Damian Green said the Government remained committed to reducing net migration to the ‘tens of thousands’ during this parliament.

He said that after peaking in September last year, the numbers had started to come down.

Mr Green added: ‘These figures show that the Government was right to take swift action to overhaul the immigration system. ‘Latest quarterly figures show a decrease in the number of student and work visas issued compared to a year earlier – an early sign that our policies are starting to take effect.’

Downing Street said Mr Cameron stood by his election promise on cutting migration. Asked whether he thought it could be achieved, Mr Cameron’s official spokesman said: ‘Yes, he does, but clearly that process is going to take some time.’ The Government was ‘taking action across the board’, he added.

The number of potential illegal immigrants turned away at ports and airports slumped by 12 per cent during a controversial pilot scheme to relax border checks.

Between July and September only 4,141 foreigners were denied entry, down from 4,730 during the same period a year earlier. The fall coincided with border guards being instructed not to check the biometric chips in passports belonging to EU citizens.


"Asylum seekers" in Australia's suburbs

THOUSANDS of asylum seekers are expected to flood the suburbs as the Federal Government rolls out bridging visas allowing boat people to live and work in the community and collect welfare.

Immigration Minister Chris Bowen has handed out the first bridging visas for 27 men, mostly Afghans and Sri Lankans, whose refugee claims are being assessed. Mr Bowen said the men would be released from detention centres, including Melbourne, in coming days - with 100 a month to follow.

It comes as a secret government briefing note seen by the Herald Sun suggests thousands of boat people will soon be transferred into the community.

The NSW Government note reports a warning by the Immigration Department this week that arrivals will balloon when word spreads that asylum seekers arriving by boat are no longer to be held in detention. "Once it is widely known that IMAs will live in the community while being processed, the level of entries into Australia are very likely to escalate," the note said.

The majority are expected to be housed in Melbourne, Sydney and Brisbane.

The note followed a meeting between Department of Immigration officials and the NSW Department of Premier and Cabinet.

The radical move to a softened onshore processing system comes after the collapse of PM Julia Gillard's Malaysia deal and after the arrival of more than 300 asylum seekers this week.

Mr Bowen said the first batch of asylum seekers to be given bridging visas were long-term detainees who have cleared health, security and identity checks, and will live with friends or family. From next month, at least 100 people a month will be released while their asylum claims are processed.

A person's time in detention, their behavioural record and their family's ability to support them will decide who is chosen. "People who are assessed to pose an unacceptable risk to the community will remain in an immigration detention facility," Mr Bowen said.

Those released will be able to get jobs and up to $215 a week in means-tested payments, but will not qualify for Centrelink benefits.


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