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New Data Casts Serious Doubt on Official Immigration Statistics

Posted by Richard Ward in ,

Image courtesy of Flickr, Creative Commons

Net migration has declined to its lowest level for three years after a surge in the number of EU nationals leaving the UK since Britain took the decision to leave the European Union.

Net migration fell by 81,000 to 246,000 in the year ending March 2017. More than half of the change was attributed to a fall in net migration of EU citizens, which is down 51,000.

Meanwhile, long-term immigration to study for all nationalities, declined by 27,000 to 139,000 for the year ending March 2017, but remained the second most common reason for migration.

International Passenger Survey data shows that, of those whose main reason for long-term immigration was study, the majority (93,000 or 69%) were non-EU citizens, down 20,000 on the previous year.

For the year to March 2017, the government's first ever "exit check" indicates that 97% of students from outside the EU with a visa to enter the UK are known to have left.

At present, it's unclear what had happened to the remaining 3% whose visas had expired.

The numbers also show that 95% of international students decide to leave at the end of their studies or are given permission to stay due to some other reason.

It had previously been thought that tens of thousands of international students remained in the country illegally, but the latest figures cast serious doubt over the accuracy of official immigration statistics.

Home Secretary Amber Rudd has subsequently launched an investigation into the impact of international students on the UK's society and economy.

Amber Rudd said: "There is no limit to the number of genuine international students who can come to the UK to study, and the fact that we remain the second most popular global destination for those seeking higher education is something to be proud of.

"We understand how important students from around the world are to our higher education sector, which is a key export for our country, and that's why we want to have a robust and independent evidence base of their value and the impact they have."

The analysis will be undertaken by the government's Migration Advisory Committee and will look into the impact of tuition fees and other spending by foreign students on both the national and local economies.

The committee is due to report back by September next year.