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Migration: Legal and soaring [print version]

Terminal 4, London Heathrow. Photo David McKelvey vis Flickr (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0).

The increase in net migration into Britain is mainly driven by legal routes and not by people smuggled into the country. The latest figures show that the number of visas continues to rise, as a result of government policy.

The government issued 1.4 million visas last year, excluding visitors. The two largest categories were 616,000 for foreign workers and their dependants (up from 421,565 in 2022) and 605,000 for students and their relatives. It’s these two which underly the jump in immigration.

The British population was around 58 million in 1996; net inward migration was relatively stable, below 100,000 each year. But in 1997 the incoming Labour government imposed its open door policy, which all successive governments have maintained. The result was a sustained increase in net migration: by 2021 the population had reached 67 million.

After the disruption brought about by the Covid pandemic, the upward trend in net inward migration resumed and increased. This is due in large part to changes brought about by the introduction of the Skilled Work Visa.

• A longer version of this article is on the web at www.cpbml.org.uk