Rishi Sunak says he is ‘committed’ on need to cut net migration rates as ministers plan crackdown on student visas
- Ministers are bracing for a net migration that will reach a record 700,000 this week
- It comes as the prime minister spoke at a press conference at the G7 summit in Hiroshima
Rishi Sunak yesterday said he was “unequivocal” about the need to curb net migration as ministers finalize plans for a crackdown on student visas.
The prime minister said he was “determined to bring the numbers down” and was looking at “a range of measures” to curb the number of people coming to this country.
Ministers are bracing for net migration to hit a record 700,000 when official figures for the past year are released this week.
Mr Sunak has declined to set a net migration target but said last week he was determined to lower the level of the 504,000 he “inherited”. This figure is double the level seen in the last election, when the Tory Manifesto pledged to reduce the overall number.
At a press conference at the G7 summit in Hiroshima yesterday, the prime minister dodged questions as to whether the government owed the public an apology for failing to control migration levels. But he acknowledged that the number of arrivals was now “too high”.
British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak speaks at a press conference after the G7 summit on May 21, 2023 in Hiroshima, Japan
Ministers brace for net migration to reach record 700,000 when official figures from last year are released this week
In response to a question from the Mail, he said: ‘Let me be clear on the subject of legal migration: the numbers are too high.
“We are of course considering a series of measures to reduce numbers and I will say more about that shortly. But let me be unequivocal, I think the numbers for legal migration are too high and I am determined to bring those numbers down.” Mr Sunak also said he had made progress in tackling the migrant crisis in the Channel in recent days, citing fresh talks on a border deal with the EU. The Prime Minister also discussed the issue during private talks with Emmanuel Macron at the G7.
The Prime Minister’s comments come as ministers are considering a crackdown on student visas in response to public concern over rising immigration levels. Sources in Whitehall said ministers would likely agree to restrictions on the ability of overseas students taking one-year postgraduate courses to bring their family members.
But Education Secretary Gillian Keegan and Chancellor Jeremy Hunt opposed Home Secretary Suella Braverman’s plans for a wider crackdown, arguing that it would hurt the economy and harm the university sector, which relies on foreign students. New proposals are expected in the coming month. Rising student numbers have been a key factor in the rise in migration levels in recent years, according to the Office for National Statistics.
The data shows that those arriving on a study visa accounted for the largest share (39 percent) of the long-term immigration of non-EU nationals in the year to June 2022, at 277,000 people. That was more than 143,000 in the previous 12 months.
Meanwhile, Labor continued to flip-flop on the issue. After party chairwoman Anneliese Dodds said on Friday that net migration would need to increase in the near term to fill vacancies, health spokesman Wes Streeting told The Sun it is already “at a level the country cannot handle”. Then care spokesperson Liz Kendall told Sky News yesterday: “I expect it to come down.”