EU migration, UK home office
© Pontus Edenberg

Laura Devine Immigration cut through the political facades to comment on the truth of new EU migration statistics published by the UK Home Office

The ONS and Home Office immigration statistics published recently, show net migration at 226,000. This may have left the new Government relieved to have dropped the arbitrary net migration target, of tens of thousands, pursued by previous governments without success for 37 consecutive quarters.

But what do the statistics really tell us?

Innovator/Start-up routes

The latest statistics also suggest that the newly-created Innovator and Start-up routes have proved far from successful, with exceptionally low numbers of applicants. The categories, which replaced the Tier 1 (Entrepreneur) and Tier 1 (Graduate Entrepreneur) routes respectively, have been subject to much criticism from the outset due to their narrowness and opaqueness and the failure to consult with stakeholders and industry experts.

at odds with the Government’s assertion that the UK is ‘open for business’

The abysmally low grant of two Innovator entry clearance applications in the last quarter, compared to over 400 Tier 1 (Entrepreneur) entry clearance applications in the quarter prior to its closure, reflects the much more restrictive approach the new category provides for entrepreneurs seeking to generate revenue and create jobs in the UK economy. This is a policy approach that seems very much at odds with the Government’s assertion that the UK is ‘open for business’.

Net migration

Latest ONS migration statistics show another overall decrease in EU net migration to its lowest since 2013, while non-EU net migration has remained largely the same in the past year.

Notwithstanding the downgrading of the ONS statistics to ‘experimental’ (following an uncomfortable admission by the ONS that the data received from International Passenger Surveys between the mid-2000s and 2016 is unreliable – which hardly comes as a surprise to critics of the imprecise methodology of the net migration target), the overall trend of falling net EU migration has remained largely unchanged since the Brexit referendum.

the negative rhetoric around immigration in the UK

Undoubtedly, EU citizens have been voting with their feet to leave (or not come to) the UK, in favour of other Member States. The dragging uncertainty of the failure to take swift action to guarantee citizens’ rights and the negative rhetoric around immigration in the UK, together with improving economies elsewhere in the UK and the poor value of the pound against the euro making it is less economically beneficial for some EU citizens to live and work in the UK, have all contributed to the current trends in net migration.

EU Settlement Scheme

The Government publishes separate monthly statistics on applications under the EU Settlement Scheme (EUSS). The latest EUSS data shows that in the last month to July 2019, 1.6% of cases were ‘otherwise resolved’ – but here resolution, in fact, refers to an unsuccessful outcome, meaning applications treated as withdrawn, invalid or void (but not actually refused – a distinction of little consolation to the unsuccessful applicant).

Although accounting for a small proportion of the overall grant figures for settled status (56%) and pre-settled status (42%) it represents an alarming fifteen-fold increase in such unsuccessful outcomes since the public rollout of the scheme.

caseworkers unilaterally withdrawing applications […] without the applicant’s consent

Emerging anecdotal reports of caseworkers unilaterally withdrawing applications on applicants’ behalf (without the applicant’s consent or even knowledge) raise concerns that this may be employed as an alternative to adverse refusal or backlog statistics.

This is particularly concerning as the Government has officially been publishing data stating that there have been zero refusals under the scheme, while the number of rejected/void or withdrawn applications has been increasing at alarming levels to just under 4,500 applicants since the rollout of the scheme to July 2019.

This figure should remain in focus in the following months – if this trend continues it raises the spectre of tens of thousands of EU citizens left unable to register under the EUSS and who may find themselves in limbo, unable to prove their legal status in the UK to employers, landlords and the NHS.


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