Immigration Numbers

I am grateful again to Cllr Peter Cawthron for bringing this to my attention.

The migration numbers released by the Office for national Statistics (ONS) this week show that net migration in the year to March 2015 was up 94,000 at 330,000. . So much for David Cameron’s repeated pledge to reduce net migration to the 10,000’s of thousands. And, the reported figure is certainly an underestimate of the true net migration number.

The net migration figure is a difference between the immigration figure of 636,000 and an emigration figure of 307,000. The difference is 329,000, not 330,000, but that is just a rounding effect. These are made up as follows:

Immigration                       Emigration

British                                         83,000                           132,000

Non-British, EU                      269,000                             86,000

Non-British, Non-EU             284,000                             88,000

What are we to make of these numbers ? Well . . . first we should be sceptical. As you may know the UK government does not keep track of those entering and leaving the UK. These migration numbers come from a thing called the International Passenger Survey (IPS), conducted by the ONS. The ONS website says that “The IPS conducts between 700,000 and 800,000 interviews a year of which over 250,000 are used to produce estimates of Overseas Travel and Tourism.”

Separately for 2014 the ONS reports 34.4m overseas visitors and 60.1m UK residents visiting abroad. This means some 189m entry/exit events in 2014. As a quick sense check, Heathrow handles some 75m movements per year. On annual movements of 160m pa a sample of 800,000 in the IPS would be 0.5%. Since 160m is likely to be low and 800,000 is the top bound, the figure is going to be <0.5%.

The survey asks passengers to complete a voluntary survey about their planned length of stay in the UK. A migrant is someone who plans to stay more than 12 months. Is it likely that those planning to overstay their visas are; A – keen to take part in the survey, and B – answer entirely truthfully?

We also have information on the number of National Insurance Numbers issued. In the year ending June 2015 we issued 917,000 NI numbers to foreign nationals. Or, as Nigel Farage tweeted this week, “Given that 192,000 from Romania/Bulgaria registered for NI in year period, how can believe ONS figure of 53,000 from same two countries?”

As well as those applying for NI numbers (ie those working in the taxed sector), immigration will also include dependents and those expecting to work in the black economy. The figure of 636,000 from the IPS seems certain to reflect an actual immigration figure of 1,000,000 or more.

Two things seem obvious to me:

  1. We should keep track of the actual movements into and out of the UK. Transport for London tacks far more movements of its oyster card users, so the technology certainly exists.
  2. The UK should decide the immigration policy for the UK, which is currently decided in Brussels. Yes – that involves leaving the EU.

The damage of not taking these steps is not only that we allow people to come here who we would otherwise choose to keep out, but we will refuse entry to those we would wish to let in. For instance, one action the government has taken to lower net migration is to toughen up the rules for students from outside the EU wishing to study at UK universities, damaging a sector where the UK is truly world class in the process.