Figures published by the Officer for National Statistics on Thursday showed a statistically significant fall in net migration by 84,000 compared to 2015, driven by the number of EU citizens leaving Britain more than tripling. Some 43,000 citizens of so-called EU-8 nations, including Poland, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Hungary, Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania, left Britain during the year, while fewer numbers came into the country.
There was also a significant decrease in long-term immigration to study, which fell by 32,000 from 2015 to 136,000. The UK’s Office of National Statistics (ONS) noted that this was also driven by a decrease in students from Asia, whose numbers fell to 64,000 from 80,000 in 2015 (it does not break it down by country until later this year).
However, separate data from the Home Office (which includes data on students on visas for less than a year) showed a slight increase in the number of visas issued to Indian students, whose numbers rose by 6 per cent year-on-year to 11,642. Home Office data also showed that from outside the EU, the highest number of long-term visas was granted to Indian and Chinese nationals.
The issue of immigration has emerged as a particularly emotive issue in Britain’s election campaigning. While the Conservatives have pledged to control and reduce immigration because high levels made it “difficult to build a cohesive society,” the Labour party has promised “fair rules and reasonable management of migration.” The far right UKIP party, which released its manifesto on Thursday, said it would target reducing net migration to zero. Among the major parties it has fallen to the Liberal Democrats to commit to “making the positive case for immigration.”