25/02/2015 22:43 GMT | Updated 25/02/2015 22:59 GMT

Net Migration Figures To Be Revealed For Final Time Before May's General Election

Gareth Fuller/PA Wire
Ukip leader Nigel Farage delivers a speech at Rochester Corn Exchange in Kent, after Mr Farage insisted that the NHS will be completely free at the point of access for British citizens as he outlined Ukip's plan to invest an extra 3 billion a year in the health service.

The final estimate of net migration - the difference between migrants leaving and arriving in the UK - before the general election on May 7 will be revealed on Thursday. The Prime Minister and Home Secretary pledged to slash net migration to below 100,000 by the election - but the last batch of figures from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) saw the headline figure rise above levels seen when the coalition Government came to power.

The last set of net migration figures, published in November, revealed a net flow of 260,000 migrants to the UK in the year to June, equal to the population of a city the size of Plymouth, up from 182,000 in the previous 12 months. The figure was 16,000 higher than the year to June 2010 when David Cameron and Home Secretary Theresa May took office.

Thursday's ONS figures come as a Press Association survey reveals that one in three people believes none of the top seven political parties have appropriate policies to deal with immigration. A third of respondents dismissed the main parties' approaches, with Ukip getting the most support at 30%.

Elsewhere, 12% backed Tory policies, 13% supported Labour and 4% backed the Liberal Democrats, while 4% supported the Green Party, 3% the SNP and 1% Plaid Cymru. But the USurv online survey of 1,000 adults across the UK revealed public perception of levels of immigration does not match the reality - with more than half wrongly believing the total percentage of foreign-born residents in the UK is 20% or higher. The actual figure is around 12%.

Madeleine Sumption, director of the Migration Observatory at the University of Oxford, said: "The finding that the largest groups support either Ukip or the 'no/other party' option to manage migration show the extent to which the main parties have struggled to put forward a narrative on migration that appeals to large numbers of the public."

Almost two thirds - or 61% - of respondents said they were "very concerned/concerned" about immigration on a national level, while 15% said they were not concerned. A little over half - or 53% - of respondents said they were "very concerned/concerned" about immigration on a local level, while 21% said they were not concerned.

But while 33% correctly estimated the proportion of foreign-born residents of the UK as between 10% and 20%, more than half of respondents thought it was 20% or higher, while 11% thought it was 40% or higher. The majority of respondents - 60% - wrongly thought the largest number of migrants to the UK arrive from within the EU, with 40% believing most migrants come from outside the EU.

Most recent figures from the ONS for 2013 showed around 12% of the UK population were born outside the UK, with 4% from the European Union and 8% from outside the European Union. Out of a range of 12 options including economy, culture and health, respondents - a total of 29% - thought welfare and employment would be most negatively impacted by migrants arriving in the UK.

Around 7% thought the economy would be negatively impacted, 4% chose communities, 1% said business and 7% did not think any of the options presented would be negatively impacted. Sumption said: "It is no great surprise that there is concern about the impacts of immigration on welfare and employment, but the findings show that people also think about a wide range of other issues relating to migration and its impacts, and think differently about the local and national picture."

Support for Ukip's policies on immigration was fairly even across the UK - including Scotland where the party received the backing of 25% of respondents. Alp Mehmet, vice chairman of campaign group Migration Watch UK, said: "It is striking that four out of five people expressed concern about immigration in their local area. The political system cannot ignore these concerns and must respond effectively or face further damage to its credibility."

Steven Woolfe MEP, the Ukip migration spokesman said: "It is clear from these figures that there is only one party that is trusted to deal with the immigration crisis in Britain today, and that party is Ukip. Those that support Ukip on migration now outnumber the Tories, Labour and Lib Dems put together."

He added: "Despite attempts by the political establishment to close down debate on this issue during the election, it is clear that two thirds of the country are concerned about the level of inward migration. The fact is that a simple points-based Australian system, where people are treated equally and fairly and where this country decides who can come to the country, is what this country is crying out for".

Don Flynn, Migrants' Rights Network director, said: "The latest migration figures reflect Britain's growing economy and should not be used by the political parties as a launch-pad for their negative political campaigns shifting the blame for wider problems onto migrants. What these numbers show that Britain is more than ever an outward-facing, globalised country with a diverse and hardworking population from overseas. However, we fear that the political debate ahead of the general election will fail to reflect that contemporary reality in any meaningful way."