‘Targets in tatters’: Cameron fails to cut net migration into UK

Britain's Prime Minister David Cameron (L) and Home secretary Theresa May. (Reuters/Toby Melville)
Net migration to the UK has risen by nearly 300,000 in the year ending September 2014. The figures are a source of embarrassment for Prime Minister David Cameron, who had pledged to bring immigration down to “tens of thousands.”

The latest figures released by the Office for National Statistics (ONS) show net long-term immigration was up from 120,000 in the year ending September 2013 to 298,000 in 2014, a leap which they describe as “statistically significant.”

The final set of quarterly immigration figures will embarrass Cameron and Home Secretary Theresa May, who previously promised to bring the level of immigration down to less than 100,000 before the general election in May.

The figures reveal there has been an increase from both EU and non-EU countries over the past 12 months, with the number of EU citizens rising from 43,000 to 251,000 and non-EU from 49,000 to 292,000.

Immigration from Romania and Bulgaria has risen over the past year.

Previous statistics released by the ONS in the autumn showed net immigration during 2014 was at its highest level since the previous general election.

The Migration Observatory based at Oxford University recently criticized remarks from MPs who suggested the reason immigration targets were missed was increased levels of EU migration.

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Policies have failed to reduce net migration from outside the EU to less than 100,000 at any time over the course of this parliament, meaning that the target would have been missed with or without any rise in EU migration,” the observatory said.

A spokesperson for the Labour Party criticized the Home Secretary’s policy.

“Her net migration target is in tatters, illegal immigration and exploitation are getting worse, she’s given citizenship to serious criminals and the only answer she can come up with is a few more restrictions on the overseas university students who bring billions of pounds of investment into Britain,” the Labour Party said.

Don Flynn, Director of the Migrants Rights Network, told the Guardian the latest figures “reflected Britain’s growing economy and should not be used by the political parties as a launchpad for their negative political campaigns shifting the blame for wider problems on to migrants.”

“What these numbers show that Britain is more than ever an outward-facing, globalized country with a diverse and hardworking population from overseas. However, we fear that the political debate ahead of the general election will fail to reflect that contemporary reality in any meaningful way,” he said.

The ONS figures also showed, as well as migrants arriving to seek for employment, applications for asylum rose by 6 percent to 24,914.

The largest number of asylum applications in 2014 came from Eritrea (3,239), Pakistan (2,711), Syria (2,081) and Iran (2,011).