Coffee House

Falling net migration: a clear policy success?

28 February 2013

5:37 PM

28 February 2013

5:37 PM

The fall of one third in the net immigration statistics announced today is the most significant development since that number rose by 50 per cent in 2004 (unremarked, incidentally, by the BBC at the time). On this occasion the IPPR (and the Migration Observatory) seemed determined to play down the government’s achievement. Certainly there is still a distance to go from today’s 160,000 to the target of tens of thousands but there are another two years in which to reach it.

Sarah Mulley argues that the government are laying a trap for themselves because a reduction in student arrivals will lead to a reduction in departures in a few years time.   That would only be true if the fall was in genuine students.  In fact, the fall was very largely among New Commonwealth students.  There is extensive evidence from the National Audit Office and from a Home office pilot study which indicates that there has been serious abuse of the student route in the Indian sub-continent. So, if those who have been cut out were bogus, as seems likely, there would be no reduction in out-flows as those concerned would have had no intention of going home.


Mulley goes on to suggest that even more drastic cuts in student numbers would be needed to make any further progress towards the government target.  This too is wrong.  It ignores the scope for encouraging non-EU migrants to leave when their visas expire.  The numbers are stark.  From 2003 the non–EU inflow has been steady at about 300,000 a year yet departures remained largely unchanged at around 100,000.  This net inflow of 200,000 a year from outside the European Union suggests that these migrants have a high propensity to stay on, legally or otherwise.   It follows that a reduction in their inflow will have a larger effect on net migration than the figures for legal extensions suggest.

As for today’s outcome, the government’s policy has not only worked, it has worked as was intended with minimum collateral damage.  The fall in student numbers was among the colleges where the abuse is believed to have occurred, not among the universities where non EU student visa numbers last year were up 3 per cent. Work permits are up by a similar amount and business visitors increased by 100,000 to 1.7 million.

It would be hard to expect a better report card on a complex area of policy. Maybe that is what disturbs the critics.

Sir Andrew Green is chairman of Migration Watch UK.

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Show comments
  • Reborn

    I regard net immigration figures as very misleading.
    They obviously don’t count illegals, & they don’t consider the type of immigrant coming in, or the emigrants leaving us.
    To give an extreme hypothetical example.
    One million & one, young, sexually active, third worlders arrive in the UK.
    Illiterate in their own languages & holding totally unsuitable religious ideologies, they are a massive burden on all aspects of Welfare & Infrastructure.
    One million high skilled & ambitious young Brits & wealthy retired Brits leave for more amenable climes.
    Result. Net immigration one.
    Today, the numbers will soon be socially unsustainable, even if net migration had been purely from Westerners.
    The culture of many immigrants will only exacerbate social tensions which are resulting from pressure on homes, jobs & schools.

  • Daniel Maris

    There are lots of issues with the ONS stats. This from the Migration Observatory (Oxford University):

    QUOTE: Length of stay: In its analyses of migration flows into and out of Britain, the Office for National Statistics (ONS) uses the UN definition of ‘long-term international
    migrant’: “A person who moves to a country other than that of his or her usual
    residence for a period of at least a year [….] so that the country of
    destination effectively becomes his or her new country of usual residence.”

    However, this depends on the traveller declaring their intention.

    I suspect that under this definition, none of the Russians and Chinese coming to live in London in luxury riverside flats (which appear in government figures as “new builds”) count as “immigrants” even though they take up permanent housing, use transport and energy infrastructure etc. Presumably they don’t appear in censuses.

    What monitoring of these “non residents” is undertaken? Are their periods of residence monitored? I very much doubt it.

  • Roy

    Now to start booting the ones out who shouldn’t be here, we don’t want and don’t need.

  • itdoesntaddup

    As I pointed out on the other thread, only some 75,000 students emigrate at the end of their courses – and some of them will be British – against 250,000 “student” immigrants (those admitted for more than a year) in 2011. Then there are the overstayers on shorter visas. Proper control of the student route to migration is indeed absolutely key to reducing net migration.

    Even with numbers under control, there are still significant issues over foreign students.

    Already, the deal to admit EU students on a loan rather than upfront fee basis is leading to large backlogs in student loan repayments, and surely an expectation that much of this will have to be written off.

    Then we have the strange fact that according to HESA non EU students at their recognised institutions aren’t on average paying fees that are much different from those paid by English students. Since we know that some foreign students do pay very full fees, it implies that there are significant numbers who are being subsidised by taxpayers via block grants from BIS. The idea that overseas students are always a money machine needs to be properly challenged. Of course, we should also note that teaching overseas students uses resources that could have been used to improve the education of British students.

    Then we have the security issues: these range from Islamic groups as a source of radicalisation, through potential military/industrial espionage that might apply in the case of e.g. the Chinese (how better to infiltrate high security servers than via academic institutions that might have related contract work?).

  • Eric45

    The fact remains that for many professions a British citizen will likely be competing against foreigners in the British job market – a situation I currently face – and as we all should know , it isn’t a level playing field. The odd’s are skewed against the British worker in favour of the foreigner who can undercut the wage level. So excuse me if I don’t share Sir Andrew’s content at an increase in visa numbers from non EU, it was one such person that pipped me for a prospective job the other day. There should be a cut in foreigners at least while the economy is in the dumps.

  • 15peter20

    Actually, genuine students — and their money — have been kept out, but it kept the racists happy so kudos Sir Green, you totally crushed it.

    • iviv44

      Do you have hard evidence for this? Student visas have certainly fallen but what I haven’t seen any evidence that this affects genuine students (as opposed to those attending colleges set up effectively to be immigration gateways)

  • Daniel Maris

    Well Sir Andrew Green has certainly been a shining light of accuracy and honesty in reporting on migration in recent years.

    However, I must part company with him on some points.

    Firstly – I don’t believe there is anything called “net immigration”. There is immigration and there is emigration – the difference between the two is net migration – either a positive or a negative in terms of the country’s population number. To talk of “net immigration” is nonsense and misleading (a bit like talking about “paying down the deficit”). Net immigration is not a logical concept, and simply covers up the fact that we have immigration running at over 500,000.

    The other key factor of course is that most people who come into the country are of child bearing age. 100,000 very quickly can become 200,000 or 300,000 additional people within 10 years.

    Moreover if the people coming into the country have a higher than average birth rate and continue language and customs from the old country, this results in a continuing “internal migration” as those communities grow. There are communities in the UK which have been established for nearly 60 years now where the home language remains as it was originally.

    I’m interested to see that business visitors are up 100,000 in these days of Skype.

    Are we going to find out in a couple of years that a large number of them are bogus?

  • the viceroy’s gin

    Well, with a triple-dip recession underway, it’s quite possible that fewer people WANT to immigrate, and the government’s policies have nothing to do with the decrease (or rather, they have everything to do with it, just not in a GOOD way).

    And if the above is true, that would indicate that the people declining to immigrate are likely a productive class, or a class more productive than some others still immigrating.

    There are questions still, in other words. A long term trend needs to surface, before you can decide what’s occurring right now, and its effects.

    • Daniel Maris

      The Times reported recently that over the last 10 years 75% of jobs that have been created have gone to immigrants. That should really make people think about the impact of immigration.

      • the viceroy’s gin

        …and/or they should think about the quality and value of those created jobs, which may not be much. As in, rather than importing street sweepers from Bumphuckistan and paying them like bumphuckistanis, while importing windmills from China, perhaps it’d be better to frack up some gas, and put domestic skilled tradesmen and engineers to work, along with steel mill workers, the coal miners who support them, etc.

        You know, jetison all the envirowhacko greenie stupidity, and get busy building up the workforce and economy.

        What a concept, eh?

      • dalai guevara

        Nonsense, if that were true, people need to think about
        a- why UK graduates have not and could not fill those positions
        b- why the UK underclass no longer found it appealing to take a McJob

  • Noa

    One problem is that we have the crapulous PC immigration monitoring system inherited from Labour, which does not accurately monitor who comes in and goes out.
    Can it be fixed? Probably, but the existing fog it creates suits politicians who, ultimately, prefer tinkering with the system to actually garnering the information needed to repair it properly.

    • Daniel Maris

      I agree Noa. You’re right that the Government (and the previous one) find the statistical miasma useful.

      Rather than obsesssing about the net migration numbers, the first thing a patriotic government should do is put in place an effective monitoring system, so we can tell when and whether someone who comes in subsequently leaves. We should also be providing accurate estimates of illegal migrants – that can be done by various means.

  • Andrew Thorpe-Apps

    The fall of 1/3 in net migration to Britain is very good news indeed. Britain only reaps the rewards of immigration if it is sustainable.

  • CharlietheChump

    Congratulations to Sir Andrew and Migration Watch who have achieved an amazing turn around in media reporting while battling against the lies of labour, the immigration lobby and the left.
    Still a long, long way to go but the reduction is good news.

    • iviv44

      Surely the matter really comes down to the detailed breakdown of the student figures. If we have cut net immigration by coming down hard on dodgy colleges that were essentially set up as an immigration gateway then all well and good (these students weren’t going to leave the country after their courses had finished anyway). If they are down to world-class youth talent going elsewhere then we may have more of a problem in the long run. My hunch is that the vast majority is the former though, so these figures should be welcomed.

  • Russell

    I am sure the biggest hypocrits in parliament, Labour, will manage to criticise the government (probably for stemming the flow of welfare loving potential labour voters).

  • Thatcherite Lee

    Try telling that to the UKIPers who think emigration is only British people leaving. What they think it’s called when immigrants leave only they know. They really have no clue.

    • itdoesntaddup

      If you believe the statistics, there is net emigration of about 60,000 British per year, and net immigration of foreigners of around 300,000 per year.

    • Makroon

      It is not realistic to expect the Mr Angrys to be assuaged.
      Not by Cameron’s promised referendum, not by a fall in immigration.
      I doubt even a full-scale reversion to the UK (1958 version) would satisfy them.

      • Noa

        What, full employment, a decent educational system, effective border controls, Parliamentary sovereignty, and a comprehensive range of UK owned industries?
        And what do you offer as an alternative? Why the perpetuation of Blair’s bankrupt, socialist dystopia!

  • huktra

    Significant yes, but significant for the better no.
    We are becoming known as a xenophobic nation and the elite are bypassing us.

    • Noa

      Your post amply demonstrates why.

    • Daniel Maris

      If only! Sadly though we are becoming the (temporary, doesn’t count as immigration) residence of choice for Chinese and Russian oligarchs.

  • anyfool

    It might be a policy success.
    Now let us have a emigration policy where you throw out the third world illegals including those given dodgy asylum entry, criminals and every person given entry so they could boost core Labour support.

    • dalai guevara

      I smell an election coming up – must be a daunting prospect coming third…

      • iviv44

        but _they_ came second 🙂