The number of long-term migrants in Britain fell slightly to 327,000 in the year ending in March the Office for National Statistics said. But that still leaves the level close to a record.
The figure – calculated from the difference between the number of people arriving and those leaving – represents a decrease of 9,000 on the previous year, underlining the continued pressure on government ministers to curb freedom of movement following the EU referendum in June.
Nicola White at the ONS said:
Net migration remains at record levels although the recent trend is broadly flat. The influx of Romanians and Bulgarians has also reached a new high, although that’s off-set by falls in non-EU immigration and from other central and eastern European countries. Work remains the main reason for migration, followed by study which has seen a significant fall in the number of people coming to the UK for education.
It’s important to remember that these figures only go up to the end of March and do not cover the period following the UK’s vote to leave the European Union.
Total immigration was down 11,000 to 633,000 – still among the highest ever recorded levels – while emigration also slipped 2,000 to 306,000. Net migration of EU citizens in the UK fell by 4,000 to 180,000 in the period. Non-EU citizens counted for 190,000, down from 200,000 over the same period last year.
At the end of 2015, the ONS recorded 334,000 long-term migrants in the UK – the highest on record for a calendar year. (Long-term migrants are defined as those who have changed their country of usual residence for 12 months or more.)
Popular fears about an uncontrolled wave of immigrants entering the UK from Europe helped to tip the Brexit referendum towards victory for the Leave campaign.
Theresa May insisted during her tenure as Home Secretary that she would bring the numbers down to the “tens of thousands” in line with the Conservatives’ manifesto pledge, even as the quarterly figures rose. Since becoming prime minister, Ms May has acknowledged that it “may take some time to get there.”
Reporting by Helen Warrell and Mehreen Khan.
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