Net immigration to the UK rose to a record 504,000 in the year to June, driven by an increase in the number of non-EU nationals, international students and Ukrainian refugees arriving in the country, official figures show.
It means net migration – the number of immigrants to the UK, less the number of people leaving the country to move elsewhere – has more than doubled in the last year, adding to the pressure on Rishi Sunak and Home Secretary Suella Braverman over their stated aim of reducing the figure.
The Office for National Statistics (ONS), which compiles the provisional figures, said 2022 was a “unique” and “unprecedented” year following the worst of the Covid pandemic, the transition to the Government’s new points-based immigration system and the resettling of tens of thousands of Ukrainian and other refugees to the UK amid conflicts.
These factors have contributed to a 435,000 increase in total long-term immigration to an estimated 1.1m arrivals in the year ending June.
This has been driven by arrival of 704,000 non-EU nationals – up 379,000 on the previous year.
More than a third (39 per cent) of the non-EU nationals came to the UK on study visas, with the ONS saying it is “possible” that with the lifting of Covid travel restrictions in 2021, more students arrived having previously followed their courses remotely.
A similar proportion (39 per cent) arrived under visas classed as family, protection, settlement, visit and “other” – including 89,000 Ukrainian and 21,000 Afghan refugees and thousands of Hong Kongers who were offered humanitarian protection amid war and turmoil in their homelands.
Work visas made up the remaining contribution to non-EU immigration, with an estimated 151,000 people arriving for work compared to 92,000 in the previous year.
In a sign of the changing picture of immigration after Brexit, 51,000 more EU nationals left the UK than arrived.
Meanwhile, a total of 560,000 people left the UK, made up of 195,000 non-EU nationals, 275,000 EU nationals and 90,000 Britons.
The figures do not include tens of thousands of asylum seekers who have arrived after crossing the Channel in small boats, with separate figures published by the Home Office on Thursday showing 33,029 people arriving by that route in the year ending September.
Commenting on the net migration statistics, Jay Lindop, ONS’ deputy director of the Centre for International Migration, said: “A series of world events have impacted international migration patterns in the 12 months to June 2022.
“Taken together these were unprecedented. These include the end of lockdown restrictions in the UK, the first full period following transition from the EU, the war in Ukraine, the resettlement of Afghans and the new visa route for Hong Kong British Nationals (Overseas), which have all contributed to the record levels of long-term immigration we have seen.
“Migration from non-EU countries, specifically students, is driving this rise. With the lifting of travel restrictions in 2021, more students arrived in the UK after studying remotely during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“However, there has also been a large increase in the number of people migrating for a range of other reasons.
“This includes people arriving for humanitarian protection, such as those coming from Ukraine, as well as for family reasons.
“The many factors independent of each other contributing to migration at this time mean it is too early to say whether this picture will be sustained.”
The figures triggered a backlash from some Tories,