Net migration has hit a record high of 606,000, according to the British Office for National Statistics (ONS).
The surge has been fuelled by more than 1.2 million migrants, primarily from outside the EU, being granted visas to enter the UK to study, work or escape conflict or oppression. The ONS estimated that 557,000 people emigrated.
The resulting 606,000 for the year ending December 2022 is nearly three times the pre-Brexit average of between 200,000 and 250,000.
It also blows apart the government’s 2019 manifesto pledge to bring down the overall rate of net migration from its then level of 245,000.
The new figure is similar to the level for the year ending June 2022 after the ONS revised its estimates. Whereas the June 2022 number had previously been reported as 504,000, the ONS said an “improvement in methods” meant that the figure was actually also 606,000.
Ministers attempted to pre-empt the figures on Tuesday with a crackdown on foreign students, which Prime Minister Rishi Sunak claimed was the “biggest ever single measure” to reduce legal immigration.
The crackdown will bar most foreign students from bringing in dependants or switching to work visas before completing their studies.
The new net migration figure is lower than expected, with ministers having been fearful this week that it could hit between 700,000 and 800,000 or even one million.
The ONS said: “Both a slowing of immigration and rising of emigration means that levels of net migration have levelled off in recent quarters.
“An estimated 606,000 more people arrived long-term to the UK than departed in the year ending December 2022, 118,000 higher than a year previously, but similar to levels in the year ending June 2022.”
The surge will fuel demands for ministers to go further to meet their manifesto pledge. Robert Jenrick, the immigration minister, hinted on Wednesday that the government could bring forward more measures.
The Daily Telegraph, London