Quarterly reports are released on immigration by the Office of National Statistics and are used by anti-immigrationists to display high levels of migration into the UK, but if an immigrant is universally recognised as a person entering a country for at least a year, as stated by Migration Watch UK, then how can we interpret this data? What is the reality of the immigration scaremonger’s myth that there is mass uncontrolled immigration? Net migration was 300,000 in 2014, but this was after a decrease of both immigration and net migration across seven quarters, only broken by an increase at the end of 2013. The thing with year on year changes in migration is that, particularly with years like 2012/2013, the changes aren’t statistically significant, so while we’re told repeatedly about skyrocketing levels of immigration, either the statistics in recent years haven’t been saying this, or they’re saying the opposite. Overall net migration was up in 2013 and 2014 compared to the previous years, but there were still quarterly decreases.
If we look at the reasons for entry to the UK we can see that there were increases in 2013 in the number of work and study visas granted, with almost 50% of work visas being granted to short-term skilled workers, as well as there being a decrease in family visas granted. Quite surprisingly family visas are made a huge deal of despite this decrease. While the increase in immigration to the UK in 2013 from the previous year wasn’t statistically significant, the decrease in non-EU immigration was.
Now we get to the issue of ‘mass uncontrolled immigration’. Basically it does not exist. There are an array of restrictions for immigration from outside of the EU, so unless the debate is solely about EU migration, which it isn’t, then there’s no such thing as mass uncontrolled immigration. While EU migration is largely uncontrolled, with there still being some restrictions, due to the right to freedom of movement granted to all EU citizens, it is not this that constitutes the majority of migration into the UK. Even when looking at immigration from EU countries alone it is apparent that most of this migration is from Western European countries, over 50% in 2013, in fact.
Let’s look at the breakdown of the figures for 2014. 624,000 people immigrated and 327,000 emigrated, leaving 298,000 in net migration. Over 13% of this immigrants were British citizens, over 40% were EU citizens, and over 46% were from outside of the EU. Of non-EU immigrants over 43% were from the Commonwealth. In relation to immigration from the EU the main group of people targeted in the immigration debate are Romanians/Bulgarians and people from the Middle East. Why is this if the number of Romanian and Bulgarian born people in the UK was less than 160,000 at the last census? If they still faced restrictions on their right to move into and work freely in the UK was restricted until January 2014, 7 years after EU membership was granted, and if numbers of migrants are comparatively low and haven’t surged since the lift of restrictions like Nigel Farage claimed, then how can the migration of Romanians and Bulgarians be an example of uncontrolled mass immigration? In fact the number of Romanian and Bulgarian workers in the UK dropped in the first quarter of 2014 from the last months of 2013, throwing the idea of them coming to steal out jobs right out the window. The statistics also demolish the notion that Muslims from the Middle East are flooding the UK in an attempt to take over due to the fact immigration from the Middle East has averaged 25,000 annually for 13 years with little fluctuation.
How about the demographics of the UK’s foreign born population. Well, according to the 2011 census over 11% of the foreign born population was Irish. According to those who staunchly oppose this mythical “mass uncontrolled immigration”, including UKIP, the Irish are the same as the British and are not immigrants. Only 30% are from other EU states (including Ireland). Over 40% of the UK’s foreign born population are from the Commonwealth and British Overseas Territories.
Why, if mass uncontrolled immigration is a reality, do we only have approximately 0.002% of the population of the Commonwealth, British Overseas Territories and the EU combined (excluding the UK) currently living in the United Kingdom. Why do we not see, for instance, 1 billion people from these countries? Why, despite the scaremongering of eurosceptics in the lead up to the lax in restrictions in January 2014 on the freedom of Romanians and Bulgarians to live and work in the UK, do only 0.007% of people of these nationalities reside in the UK? How can a country ever be “full” if the entire world population could fit in New Zealand with a population density less than that of Manhattan.
For most countries outside of the EU and Commonwealth there are tough visa restrictions, I could not board a plane in most countries in the world, fly to the UK and settle there to live, work and claim benefits. For countries in the Commonwealth there are still restrictions, and even in the EU where there is a right to freedom of movement for all citizens, there are still restrictions on movement and entitlements. Some restrictions are formal and official, whereas others are practical. A migrant cannot enter the UK and live there without some kind of support system even if they have the right to freedom of movement. Immigrants are not immediately entitled to benefits upon entry to the UK, despite what we are often lead to believe. Often a lack of a job, access to state benefits, and lack of family connections prevent people from entering and residing in a country, regardless of formal restrictions and visas.
Clearly we are not experiencing ‘mass uncontrolled immigration’ if the UK is the residence of only a tiny fraction of the world’s non-British population. We can talk all we like about the millions of people who could possibly come to the UK from the EU, but the fact of the matter is that millions of them aren’t coming at any one time, and won’t be coming any time in the foreseeable future. In fact there’s actually somewhat of a balance; just over two million people from EU countries live in the UK, and roughly 2 million British nationals live elsewhere in the EU.
– Statistics from the Office for National Statistics, Migration Watch, and Pew Research Centre