24/11/2011 05:10 GMT | Updated 24/11/2011 06:26 GMT

Immigration: Net Migration Hits Record High Of 252,000

The government's immigration policy has come under attack as statistics revealed net migration hit a record high of 252,000 in 2010.

In 2009 net migration to the UK was 198,000.

The figures from the Office for National Statistics come in the wake of the government's pledge to reduce migration to the "tens of thousands".

Last month David Cameron launched a crackdown, urging the public to report people suspected of being illegal immigrants.

The prime minister blamed the last government's points-based system for failing to stem recent rises in net migration, and said the coalition's changes to the system will lead to fewer unskilled people entering the UK.

Jonathan Portes, director of the National Institute of Economic and Social Research and former chief economist at the Cabinet Office, aid that the figures highlighted that the government's "absurd" and "misguided' immigration policy.

"It's based on bad economics. They are trying to restrict net immigration primarily through restricting skilled migrants from outside the EU, and students."

Portes told Huff Post UK while it was important to control immigration, current policy was "effectively targeting a reduction in British exports. Why on earth would you do that?"

Matt Cavanagh, Associate Director at IPPR, agreed it was a mistake for the government to target net immigration.

"The figures confirm that net immigration in 2010 was the highest on record. Not because immigration is rising - as the ONS make clear, it has been stable since 2004 - but because emigration is falling.

The government cannot control emigration - just like it cannot control immigration from the EU - so it ends up trying to clamp down even harder on those areas of immigration it can control. But these are the areas most valuable to our economy, like overseas students and skilled workers from outside the EU."

But Immigration Minister Damian Green said the figures contained early signs "that our policies are starting to take effect".

"Latest quarterly figures show a decrease in the number of student and work visas issued compared to a year earlier..

"The latest net migration figures are also encouraging, showing a fall since the recent peak in September 2010, but we are clear there is much more to be done.

"That's why I will be announcing reforms to settlement and the family route which will help bring net migration down from the hundreds of thousands to the tens of thousands over the course of this Parliament."

A drop the number of people leaving the country to a 10-year-low, led to the rise. Figures for the year ending in March 2011 show the number of people leaving the UK for work is at a five year low at 174,000.

Almost a quarter of a million people who came to Britain last year were students.