UK

Immigration Is Down By A Third, The Office For National Statistics Says

23/05/2013 18:29 BST | Updated 23/05/2013 19:20 BST

Net migration into Britain has fallen by more than a third, after the number of immigrants arriving in the country dropped ''significantly''.

A net flow of 153,000 migrants came to the UK in the year to September 2012, down from 242,000 in the previous year, the Office for National Statistics (ONS) said.

The decline was driven by a drop in the number of immigrants coming to Britain, which fell from 581,000 to 500,000, while the number of migrants leaving the country rose from 339,000 to 347,000.

Ministers hailed the figure, which will be a boost for the Tories' battle against Ukip.

But campaigners warned it was driven by a reduction in student numbers which the UK could "ill afford".

Immigration Minister Mark Harper said: "Net migration is now at its lowest level for a decade showing we are continuing to bring immigration back under control.

"Today's statistics show another significant fall in net migration - down by more than a third since June 2010. This has been driven in the most recent period by a decline in the number of people coming to the UK, as stated by the independent Office for National Statistics."

The figures put prime minister David Cameron and home secretary Theresa May on target to reduce net migration from non-EU countries to less than 100,000 before the next election in 2015.

immigration figures

The figures are a boost for the government

There was a ''significant'' decrease in the number of immigrants arriving from New Commonwealth countries, which includes African countries such as Botswana, Kenya and Malawi and Indian subcontinent countries such as Bangladesh, India and Pakistan.

Some 105,000 immigrants from New Commonwealth countries arrived in the UK in the year to September, down 36% or 61,000 from 166,000 in the previous year.

A total of 58,000 immigrants arrived from countries which joined the EU in 2004, including Poland, the Czech Republic and Lithuania, down 22% or 17,000 from the previous year.

The most common reason given for migrating to Britain remains study, the ONS said, with 190,000 foreign students arriving in the period, although this was down 22% or 56,000 from 246,000 in the previous year.

The number of visas issued fell 6% to 499,780 in the year ending March 2013 - the lowest 12-monthly total since comparable data was first published in 2005.

Within the figures, this included 206,814 visas issued for the purpose of study, a fall of 9%.

And 175,000 people migrated to the UK for work, which was down from 183,000 in the previous year.

The Institute for Public Policy Research warned that the net migration falls were due to declining international student numbers and progress towards the immigration target was not sustainable.

Sarah Mulley, associate director at IPPR, said: "Today's statistics show a continued decline in net migration to the UK.

But the government's progress towards its target of reducing net migration to less than 100,000 by 2015 is still in large part being driven by falling numbers of international students.

"This decline in international student numbers comes at considerable economic cost to the UK at a time when we can ill afford it."