Ahead of the general election, where does each party stand on immigration?
The country’s policy towards immigrants, refugees and asylum seekers is hotly disputed. So with time running out before we go to the polls, why are parties so vague on their stance, asks Sean O’Grady
The basic facts about migration to the UK are fairly clear. On the latest annual data available, relating to the year to September 2018, net immigration from outside the EU is sharply up, at 261,000, the highest since 2004. On the other hand net migration from other EU states was on a downward trend, falling to its lowest since 2009 at 57,000 (derived from 202,000 arriving, but 145,000 leaving). Since the Brexit referendum net EU migration has been falling.
More people are coming to the UK to study, with non-EU student immigration at its highest level since 2011. At the moment, students are treated statistically the same way as anyone else.
Such facts though are sometimes disputed, even by those who produced them. The Office for National Statistics, for example, cautioned in August that the level of migration from the EU to the UK has been underestimated by the ONS from the mid-2000s to 2016. The ONS said the error affected the number of migrants from eight of the countries that joined the EU in 2004, including Poland. It said it may have also overstated migration from non-EU countries.