Officials said the increase has been driven by hundreds of thousands of refugees from Afghanistan, Hong Kong and Ukraine being given the right to live in the UK

Rishi Sunak is facing a political storm today after net immigration to the UK soared to a record high of 504,000 in the year to June.

The extraordinary figure – roughly equivalent to the population of Liverpool – is more than 50 per cent up on last year.

Officials pointed out the increase has been driven by hundreds of thousands of refugees from Afghanistan, Hong Kong and Ukraine being given the right to live in the UK – alongside the end of Covid travel restrictions and a rise in student numbers.

They also stressed that the figures are not directly comparable with previous years, as methodology has changed dramatically. 

However, the numbers will spark alarm in government, with levels seemingly far above the highs seen before the Brexit referendum. Migration from the EU was actually negative over the year, offsetting the arrivals from the rest of the world. 

Home Secretary Suella Braverman has signalled her ambitions to meet the long-standing Tory goal of bringing net annual migration down to the ‘tens of thousands’. 

Rishi Sunak has said he also wants to reduce overall net migration but refused to set an ‘arbitrary number’. Instead he has been focusing on illegal immigration and the Channel migrants crisis, while indicating that legal routes might be opened up to plug skills shortages.

The historic figures mean that the UK is seeing record immigration combined with a labour shortage, as vacancies outnumber those seeking work, and wages falling in real terms. 

The numbers classed as economically inactive – including through illness – have hit new highs following the pandemic.  

Explaining the dramatic rise in net migration, the Office of National Statistics said it was down to a ‘unique’ set of factors. 

Alongside 267,000 visas for people from Ukraine, Afghanistan and Hong Kong, there has also been a large rise in the number of students from outside the EU. 

Data shows 476,389 sponsored study visas were issued in the year ending September, a rise of 77 per cent compared to 2019, during the pandemic. 

A total of 127,731 of these visas went to Indians – meaning they have overtaken China to become the most common nationality for students in the UK. 

The number of people claiming asylum in the UK in the year to June was 72,027, close to the levels seen at the last peak twenty years ago. 

Officials said the increase has been driven by hundreds of thousands of refugees from Afghanistan, Hong Kong and Ukraine being given the right to live in the UK

Officials said the increase has been driven by hundreds of thousands of refugees from Afghanistan, Hong Kong and Ukraine being given the right to live in the UK

Officials said the increase has been driven by hundreds of thousands of refugees from Afghanistan, Hong Kong and Ukraine being given the right to live in the UK

The forecasts could prompt a headache for ministers under pressure from some for better control of Britain’s borders after the Conservative Party’s 2019 manifesto pledge to reduce net migration.

Ms Braverman yesterday said ‘we’ve lost control of our borders’ as she blamed economic migrants ‘who exploit the generosity of the British people’ for the Channel migration crisis.

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