Net migration to the U.K. hit a record high of half a million people, driven by the arrival of international students following the end of COVID-19 restrictions, as well as resettlement programs for Ukrainians, Afghans and Hong Kongers.
An estimated 504,000 more people moved to the U.K. than departed in the year to June 2022, according to Office for National Statistics data released on Thursday. That’s up from 173,000 the previous year.
The figures will pile pressure on Prime Minister Rishi Sunak from his ruling Conservative Party to move quickly in cutting immigration, after he rebuffed calls from businesses on Monday to make it easier for them to hire workers from overseas. The numbers are also likely to raise concerns among proponents of Brexit, many of whom campaigned for Britain’s divorce from the bloc on the grounds that the country would be able to regain control of its borders and bring down the number of people moving to the U.K.
Instead, the ONS said in its statement that the data for the first full period under Britain’s new post-Brexit regime show long-term immigration at a record. It said the 12 months to June were a “unique” period, “with simultaneous factors coinciding to affect long-term immigration.”
The numbers reflected a huge rise of migrants from outside the EU, “specifically students,” according to the ONS. Net migration of EU nationals fell.