ONS Refuses to Delay Immigration Data Amid Fears of Record-High Influx; Crisis Deepens for Sunak
The UK government, led by Prime Minister Rishi Sunak, finds itself in a contentious predicament as it navigates the delicate balance between managing immigration and public perception. In a surprising turn of events, the Office for National Statistics (ONS) has firmly rejected the government’s request to postpone the release of critical immigration figures, scheduled for Thursday. This decision comes at a time when the government is anxious about these statistics potentially eclipsing the coverage of the much-anticipated Autumn Statement, which includes significant tax cuts.
The latest developments suggest that the number of people entering the UK in the year to June 2023 could surpass 700,000, setting a new record. This figure starkly contrasts last year’s count of 606,000, indicating a substantial increase in both legal immigration and the ongoing small boats crisis. The situation puts Sunak’s leadership to the test, as he grapples with the complexities of border control and public expectations.
Home Office data reveals a notable 50 percent rise in visa extensions granted for work, study, or family reasons in the first half of this year alone, with over 105,000 people benefiting. This surge occurs despite a predicted decline in refugees from Ukraine and Hong Kong.
The recent move by Immigration Minister Robert Jenrick to raise the minimum salary requirement for migrants from £26,200 to £30,000, aimed at curbing low-skilled immigration, has sparked further debate. Critics argue that this threshold remains below the median UK salary of £33,000, questioning its effectiveness in addressing the issue.
Within the Conservative Party, tensions are mounting. A Red Wall Tory MP commented, “Time is fast running out. Sorting out legal migration and ending the small boats crisis will be the difference between us winning and losing.” This sentiment echoes the growing urgency within the party to resolve these issues decisively.
As the government braces for the release of these contentious immigration figures, the focus now shifts to how it will navigate the political and public fallout. The upcoming Autumn Statement by Chancellor Jeremy Hunt, intended to be a showcase of fiscal responsibility and economic foresight, now risks being overshadowed by the looming immigration crisis.