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New immigration statistics: some highlights

The quarterly immigration statistics were published this morning. Net migration has reached its highest ever level, now standing at 336,000 for the year ended June 2015. Immigration increased by 62,000 to 636,000 and emigration decreased by 20,000 to 300,000. This is largely due to the UK’s relatively strong economy: less people already in the UK are seeking work abroad and more people abroad are seeking work here.

The Office For National Statistics report can be found here. There are more accessible reports and data tables available on gov.uk here

Asylum

Asylum applications increased by 19% to 29,024 in the year ended September 2015. This is the highest level since 2005. The main “source” countries were Eritrea (3,726), followed by Sudan (2,842), Iran (2,407) and Syria (2,402).

The grant rate for asylum cases increased to 41%, which I believe is the highest ever level. However, the grant rate for Eritreans fell from 84% to 61% on the basis of new and controversial country information. Judges are clearly unimpressed with the quality of Home Office decisions in Eritrean cases because the success rate on appeal rose from 37% to 72%. The overall average for allowed appeals stood at 33%.

Think about that for a moment. The Home Office is refusing far more Eritrean asylum claims on the basis of country information that has been universally criticised. Those asylum seekers are appealing and the appeal success rate has doubled.

What a massive waste of money and time! Think of the legal aid costs, the cost to the Home Office of representing at those appeals and the cost to the tribunal service of hosting them. And that is before we consider the stress and anxiety caused to Eritreans ultimately found to be genuine refugees but who have to appeal poor quality Home Office decisions.

Meanwhile, although the number of asylum decisions has increased, the backlog of pending decisions has also increased, from 22,879 to 24,236, an increase of 6%.

Detention and removals

There was an 11% increase in those entering immigration detention, with the total reaching an astonishing 32,741 in the year ended September 2015. 154 of that number were children.

Meanwhile, the number of those removed from the UK from detention declined yet further to 47%. This means that over half of those subjected to immigration detention — which is supposed to be for the purpose of removal — are released into the community again.

Of those leaving detention, 221 had been detained for between one and two years and 32 for periods in excess of two years. For this cohort of long term detainees, only 38% are actually removed from the UK. The rest are released. Think about that.

Enforced removals 2011-14.001.jpeg
Is immigration detention used sparingly and effectively? No.

Enforced removals also decreased yet further to the lowest recorded level, 12,275 in the year ended September 2015. Voluntary departures appear to have plummeted and are likely to fall yet further once funding is finally withdrawn for Refugee Action’s Choices service at the end of 2015.

Citizenship

There was a 13% fall in applications for British citizenship in the year ended September 2015. This is regrettable given increases in immigration: less migrants are integrating as citizens, it seems. The top nationalities becoming British are India, Pakistan, Nigeria, South Africa and Bangladesh.

The number of refusals of citizenship seems to have markedly increased in the year ended, up from 7,021 to 9,485. However, looking at the data tables it is hard to see why this is. I had expected an increase in good character refusals given the tightening of criteria and the number of recent refusals I have seen. There is certainly a sharp increase in refusals in 2015, since the revised policy was introduced, with the percentage refusal rate soaring from historic levels of 3-4% to 10-15%. The table on refusals by reason is only updated annually, however, and that data only goes to the end of 2014, at which point good character refusals had actually halved compared to previous years.

We’ll need to wait for the data tables on reasons for refusal of citizenship to be updated, but it does look probable that the number of good character refusals has significantly increased.

Study

The number of student visas issued fell by 4%. This included a 2% reduction in foreign students coming to study at British universities. The number of student extension applications fell even more, reducing by 23% in just one year. The number of students settling in the UK also seems to be reducing.

It is hard to think of a better example of cutting off one’s nose to spite one’s face than the drop in university level foreign students.

By far the largest number of student visas went to Chinese nationals (33%), then nationals of the United States, India, Malaysia and Nigeria.

If you spot any other interesting tidbits, do leave a comment.

Colin Yeo
Colin Yeo A barrister specialising in UK immigration law at Garden Court Chambers in London, I have been practising in immigration law for 15 years. I am passionate about immigration law and founded and edit the Free Movement immigration law blog.

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