UK net migration numbers hit all-time high of 329k

LONDON • Net migration to Britain has hit record levels, official figures showed, with the difference between migrants leaving and arriving in Britain rising to around 329,000 in the year to March.

"The net migration figure was a significant increase from 236,000 in the year ending March 2014, and is the highest net migration on record," the Office for National Statistics said.

Immigration Minister James Brokenshire called the figures "deeply disappointing".

Prime Minister David Cameron had vowed to reduce the numbers to fewer than 100,000 by May.

Some 636,000 people immigrated to Britain over the 12-month period, a rise of 84,000, while 307,000 people emigrated, down 9,000.

The net figure is 9,000 more than the previous record, which was set in the year ending June 2005.

The report found that 269,000 EU citizens had moved to Britain permanently, a "statistically significant" increase of 56,000. Around 53,000 were Romanian and Bulgarian citizens, almost double the 28,000 in the previous 12 months.

Mr Cameron has vowed to hold a referendum on Britain's membership in the European Union (EU) by 2017, and is hoping to wrest powers from Brussels before the vote.

Mr Brokenshire called the figures a "wake-up call", adding that "this is not sustainable, and risks the future economic development of other EU member states. It reinforces the need for further reform at an EU level, as well as within the UK."

Mr Nigel Farage, leader of the anti-EU UK Independence Party, said the figures "reflect borderless Britain, and total impotence of the British government".

"If open borders are not part of the Cameron renegotiation, then what's the point of it?" he said.

The total net migration figure is equivalent to a city the size of Cardiff, and Britain's foreign-born population has surpassed eight million for the first time, meaning one in eight residents was born abroad, up from one in 11 last year.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 28, 2015, with the headline 'UK net migration numbers hit all-time high of 329k'. Print Edition | Subscribe