Students lead 20% immigration rise
Net migration to the UK soared by more than 20% last year, fuelled by growing numbers of overseas students and a drop in the number of Britons leaving to live abroad, figures have shown.
The increase was bad news for the Government, given its aim of reducing net immigration to "tens of thousands, rather than hundreds of thousands", the left-leaning Institute for Public Policy Research (IPPR) said.
Net long-term immigration rose to 196,000 last year from 163,000 in 2008, the Office for National Statistics (ONS) figures showed. While 4% fewer people arrived in the UK last year - 567,000 compared with 590,000 in 2008 - the number who left fell further, by 13% to 371,000.
The number of visas issued to students rose 35% to 362,015 in the year to June, other Home Office figures showed. The overall number of visas issued was also up, by 8%, and broke the two million mark, rising to 2,076,925, compared with 1,917,460 in the year to June 2009.
But there was an 18% fall in visas for highly-skilled workers - down to 28,410 from 34,555 - and a 9% drop in the number of visas for skilled workers - down to 66,140 from 72,570. The number of temporary employment visas was also down 17% to 66,495 from 79,890 in the year to June 2009.
The figures also showed the number of people granted settlement in the UK rose 37% to 224,390 in the year to June, up from 163,660 in the year to June 2009.
The Government's objective of cutting net immigration was "becoming harder to reach", the IPPR said. "Meeting it looks likely to have serious economic costs for the UK, and may not deliver the political result that the Government seeks."
Immigration minister Damian Green said the figures showed why the UK "must tighten our immigration system in order to reduce net migration to manageable levels".
Mr Green added that the Government was still committed to reducing the level of net migration to "tens of thousands each year, not hundreds of thousands".
But Sir Andrew Green, chairman of campaign group Migrationwatch UK, said: "If we are to stem the inexorable rise of our population to 70 million within 20 years, of which 68% will be the result of immigration, economic migrants should be expected to leave after four years and their departure recorded."