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Net migration to UK falls 10% to 685,000

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Net migration to UK falls 10% to 685,000

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Net migration to the UK fell 10 per cent to 685,000 in 2023, official data indicated on Wednesday, but inflows remained well above historical averages.

The Office for National Statistics figures for legal migration indicated that the number of people coming to the country to work overtook those coming to study last year.

The figures also showed that the 2022 peak in net migration was higher than previously thought, at 764,000. Net inflows in the year to June 2023 were also 68,000 higher than previous estimates at 740,000.

Migration is one of the hottest topics in the UK general election, which Prime Minister Rishi Sunak has set for July 4.

The ONS said it was too soon to tell whether the decline
in inflows was the start of a downward trend. But it also noted that separate Home Office data showed visa applications had dropped in recent months, after policy changes intended to slash numbers.

Last year’s decline in net migration came before such measures took effect and was partly due to a rise in emigration, as students finished their courses.

Humanitarian-related immigration also fell, from 160,000 in 2022 to 50,000 in 2023, as fewer people came from Ukraine and Hong Kong.

The ONS said immigration was now driven by work-related arrivals from outside the EU, which rose from 277,000 in 2022 to 423,000 in 2023.

Almost half of such arrivals were coming from India or Nigeria, most commonly to work in the health and social care sector. The number coming as dependants of those on long-term work visas was higher than the number of main applicants.

A ban on masters students bringing family members began at the start of 2024.

Further measures announced in December — including higher salary thresholds for skilled workers and a ban on care workers bringing dependants — took effect in March and April.

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