Migration cut target 'unlikely to be met', report finds

Official stamps a passport
Image caption The Migration Observatory said reforms will leave net migration at about 165,000 by 2015

Government plans to cut net migration to the "tens of thousands" by 2015 are likely to fail, a report has found.

Prime Minister David Cameron and Home Secretary Theresa May have pledged to reduce net migration from the current 242,000 to less than 100,000 people.

But immigration system reforms will leave net migration at about 165,000 by 2015, according to analysis by Oxford University's Migration Observatory.

Immigration minister Damian Green repeated the government's pledge.

The government is attempting to reduce the net immigration level in four ways: reducing labour immigration, student immigration and family immigration from outside the EU; and making it harder for migrants to settle in the UK - encouraging greater outflows, the Migration Observatory said.

It said government figures show changes to work and student visas are expected to cut net migration by a respective 11,000 and 56,000 people by 2015.

The Migration Observatory also found that changes to family visas will cut the numbers by 8,000 at most, while plans to make it harder for migrants to settle in the UK are unlikely to reduce migration flows until 2016.


Dr Scott Blinder, senior researcher at the observatory, said: "The government's current policies only look likely to reduce net migration by about 75,000 at best, which would mean that further reductions of more than 67,000 would be needed to meet the 'tens-of-thousands' net migration target."

To achieve the target, the government will either have to further tighten immigration rules or "reconsider the target or the timeframe in which they intend to deliver it", Dr Blinder said.

The government could also hope that more British and EU nationals emigrate from the UK or that current assessments are "way off the mark". But these two options are "pretty unlikely", he added.

Shadow home secretary Yvette Cooper said the report showed that the government has "no workable policies" to meet its promise and that its immigration policy was in "complete disarray".

She went on: "Last week we learnt that their changes to the student visas system would cost the UK economy £2.4bn and would still only have half the impact on net migration that they promised.

"Recent reports also show the government is failing to ensure the UK Border Agency has the resources it needs to effectively enforce immigration rules, with 5,000 cuts in staff and no chief executive in place after five months.

"At the heart of their policies is chaos, confusion, rows between ministers and misleading measures which will fail to properly safeguard both the economy and the UK's borders," she said.

Responding to the report, Immigration minister Damian Green said the immigration system had been allowed to get out of control for too long.

"This government will tackle abuse of the system and get net migration reduced back down to the tens of thousands in the lifetime of this parliament," he said.

On Monday, Mr Cameron said the Liberal Democrats were preventing the Tories from taking tougher action on immigration.

"We've all had to make compromises," he told BBC Radio 2's Steve Wright.

"If I was running a Conservative-only government I think we would be making further steps on things like immigration control or making sure that our welfare reforms were absolutely making sure that if you're not prepared to work you can't go on welfare.

"I think we'd be tougher than that. We make compromises, we make agreements, but as a government I think we're delivering a lot of good things for the country," he said.

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