Rishi Sunak is braced for a major new headache – and there will be fury

Rishi Sunak is bracing for record-high net migration figures as the number of visas issued in the first half of this year “continued rising”.

The Prime Minister is under growing pressure from many within his own party – including Cabinet ministers – to reduce the number of migrants coming to Britain.

But the Office for Budget Responsibility hinted Thursday’s net migration figures could exceed 606,000.

It stated: “The latest ONS data show net migration was more than 600,000 in 2022, compared to around 220,000 in 2019.

“Home Office data show visas granted continued rising in the first half of 2023, on a rolling annual basis, with humanitarian visa issuance falling but the remaining categories continuing to rise.

“In terms of sub-categories, visas for health and care workers showed a substantial pickup, growing by more than 150 per cent in the year to June 2023.”

Dr Alan Mendoza, Executive Director of the Henry Jackson Society, said: “What on earth is happening? We’ve had a big focus on illegal migration over the past few years: the small boats, etc while ignoring the fact that there’s a much bigger legal migration issue.

“There was in the past the Ukraine case, the Hong Kong case, the Afghan case; there were cases that explained this. But these are petering out now. So what’s explaining this massive jump in numbers if this is indeed correct?

“We need to know if these are temporary student things if they are work permits being issued, is it an attempt to get cheap labour in?

“It is a torrent and I think what’s interesting is if you are looking at people who are here for the foreseeable future, what is the integration strategy for these people to come into this country?

“One person, if there is no integration strategy, is a problem. If it’s 1.3 million you’ve a huge situation on your hands.”

Statisticians also revealed the record-high levels of net migration have not led to an economic boost for Britain.

But the OBR said it will begin falling to around 245,000 over the next four years as restrictions on the number of dependents students can bring and higher fees for migrants begin to restrict numbers.

They stated: “Weak economic growth despite higher levels of net migration, that reached 606,000 in 2022, means that real GDP per person is expected to fall in the second half of 2023.

“It then recovers as GDP growth picks up while net migration falls back towards its assumed long-run level of 245,000 by 2026-27.

“The decline in migration is partly due to the tighter restrictions on international students bringing dependents and increases in immigration fees announced since March.”

The Home Office is considering raising the salary thresholds for skilled worker visas and limiting the number of dependants care workers can bring with them.

More than half of the 282,742 health and care visas in the year to June were issued to dependants, official figures show.

And OBR figures reveal the number of visas issued to dependants has rocketed over the past few years.

Nigerian and Indian nationals are among those to bring significantly more family members with them.

In the year to June, 35,091 Indian health and care workers brought a total of 47,432 dependants, while 25,027 Nigerians brought 40,726 dependants.

Sources confirmed a number of options are currently “under review” to reduce net migration.

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak and Home Secretary James Cleverly are trying to quell concern within the Conservative Party – and the British public – over record high levels of net migration and small boat crossings.

New Foreign Secretary David Cameron also told ministerial colleagues “we cannot let anything stand our way” of stopping the boats.

Lord Cameron told Cabinet he supported the Government’s new treaty with Rwanda and the emergency legislation.

A No 10 statement said: “The Prime Minister updated Cabinet on Government action following the Supreme Court ruling on the Rwanda Migration Partnership.

“He said that while their decision was disappointing, the Government had prepared for all eventualities and was able to respond quickly and robustly. He said the Government was determined to do everything possible to stop the boats, with numbers already down by one-third year on year.

“The Home Secretary and immigration minister updated on the substantive work that has taken place over more than a year to address the issues raised by the court and said this would be detailed in a new treaty with Rwanda alongside emergency legislation to make it unequivocally clear to both domestic and foreign courts that Rwanda is a safe country.

“The Foreign Secretary underlined the importance of stopping the boats and his support for the treaty and emergency legislation, saying we cannot let anything stand in our way.”

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