Accessibility links

Breaking News

UK Sees 'Record' Migration

FILE: Inflatable dinghies, used by migrants to cross the English Channel are brought to port, April 14, 2022, in the marina at Dover. Britain will send migrants and asylum seekers thousands of miles away to Rwanda under a controversial deal as London tries to curb crossings.

LONDON - Net migration to the U.K. hit a record 606,000 in 2022, official figures showed Thursday, heaping pressure on the government which has pledged to cut dependency on foreign labor.

"A series of unprecedented world events throughout 2022 and the lifting of restrictions following the coronavirus pandemic led to record levels of international immigration to the U.K.," said Jay Lindop, director of the center for international migration at the Office for National Statistics (ONS).

The main drivers were people coming to the U.K. from non-E.U. countries for "work, study and for humanitarian purposes," he said.

The figures included those arriving from Ukraine after Russia's invasion and Hong Kong, where the U.K. relaxed entry rules for holders of British overseas passports after China's squeeze on civil rights.

Since 2018, the country has seen thousands of people successfully cross the Channel in small boats to claim asylum.

More than 45,000 arrived last year, prompting the introduction of tougher new measures to try to stem the flow of migrants deemed to have entered the country illegally.

One of Prime Minister Rishi Sunak's predecessors, Boris Johnson, agreed a deal with Rwanda last year to relocate failed asylum-seekers to the central African country.

But the scheme has been mired in legal battles and is yet to get underway.

Immigration has long been a key political issue in the U.K., and was one the main battlegrounds of the "Brexit" referendum in 2016 which saw the country leave the bloc.

The Conservative government has repeatedly promised that by leaving the E.U., and ending the free movement of people from member states, the U.K. could "take back control" of its borders.