Ministers guess immigration statistics, there could be thousands more migrants in UK | Our England | Scoop.it

OFFICIAL UK immigration figures could be out by tens of thousands

A report by a powerful group of MPs claims Coalition ministers are relying on guesswork as they try to tackle the problem.

It says the statistics being used are “not fit for purpose”.

Analysis of how many foreigners are entering and leaving the UK is based on random interviews at ports and airports that were originally introduced to study tourism trends.

Just 5,000 migrants a year are identified by the Office for National Statistics (ONS) through this International Passenger Survey and many “may be reticent to give full and frank answers”, the report warned. Now the MPs on the Public Administration Select Committee said the Government must find new ways to gather details.

In the past year, immigration was estimated at 515,000. Emigration was thought to be 352,000. But the committee said these numbers “could be out by tens of thousands”.

“Most people would be utterly astonished to learn that there is no attempt to count people as they enter or leave the UK. They are amazed when told that the Government merely estimates”

In addition, the ONS was criticised for failing to provide migrants’ immigration status. And the Home Office did not reveal the number of people who have, or once had, permission to remain in the UK.

Committee chairman Bernard Jenkin said: “Most people would be utterly astonished to learn that there is no attempt to count people as they enter or leave the UK.

“They are amazed when told that the Government merely estimates, based on random interviews of around 800,000 people each year.”

Chris Bryant, Shadow Immigration Minister, said: “This report further casts into doubt the Tory-led Government’s claims to have cut net migration.”

And Westminster City Council leader Philippa Roe, who gave evidence to the committee, said: “Disney World has better technology to keep track of its visitors than we as a country do.”

A Home Office spokesman said: “Reforms on immigration are working. Net migration is at its lowest level for a decade.”