Net migration to the UK increases by a record half a million

“Unprecedented” world events, including the war in Ukraine, are forcing record numbers of people to move to Britain, statisticians said on Thursday, even as ministers vowed to rein in immigration after Brexit.

Net migration to Britain – the number of people arriving to start a new life, minus those leaving – stood at 504,000 in the 12 months to June, the Office for National Statistics (ONS) said.

That was up significantly from 173,000 the previous year, and was also driven by the resettlement of Afghan refugees, as well as a new visa route for British visa holders living in Hong Kong.

Students entering the UK after the easing of lockdown restrictions was another factor, the ONS said.

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“A series of global events has affected global migration patterns in the 12 months to June 2022. Taken together, these were unprecedented,” said Jay Lindop, director of the ONS’s Center for International Migration.

They have “all contributed to the record levels of long-term immigration we’ve seen,” she said, but noted that “it’s too early to say whether this pattern will continue.”

The figures risk complicating the political debate over immigration six years after Britain voted to leave the European Union, in opposition to the free movement of people across the bloc.

Home Secretary Suella Braverman, a hard-line Brexiteer, admitted on Wednesday that the government had “failed to manage our borders”.

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She vowed again to tackle the problem of record numbers of migrants crossing the Channel from France, but struggled to explain to MPs how would-be asylum seekers fleeing war and persecution could now enter Britain legally.

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