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'Will halve migration,' announces Rishi Sunak as he unveils Conservative party's manifesto

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NEW DELHI: UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak announced on Tuesday that if re-elected, he plans to halve migration and further reduce it each year. This declaration came during the unveiling of the Conservative party 's manifesto . The UK will hold snap elections on July 4, a decision Sunak made public in early May.

In 2023, India had the highest number of immigrants to the United Kingdom, with a total of 250,000 individuals.

"Immigration is too high. We want to attract the brightest and best-skilled migrants to the UK to contribute to our businesses and public services. We must bring migration numbers down to sustainable levels to reduce the impacts on public services and housing and to restore public confidence in the system," the manifesto read.

Key points relating to migration from the manifesto include:

  • We will introduce a binding, legal cap on migration, set on work and family visas so public services are protected whilst we bring the skills our businesses and the NHS needs.
  • Our cap will be set at a level that explicitly takes into account the costs and the benefits of migration.
  • The cap will fall every year of the next Parliament and cannot be breached.
  • We will give parliament an annual vote on the level of the cap so that the British people can have confidence that immigration numbers will be controlled.
  • Unlike Labour, we won’t allow any form of free movement to return.

  • Indians made up highest number of immigrants to Britain last year

    In 2023, India had the highest number of immigrants to the United Kingdom, with a total of 250,000 individuals. Among these Indian immigrants, 127,000 came for employment purposes, 115,000 arrived to pursue their studies, and the remaining 9,000 had other reasons for their move. Following India, Nigeria had the second-largest number of immigrants at 141,000, while China and Pakistan had 90,000 and 83,000 immigrants, respectively.

    According to the latest data from the Office of National Statistics, the net migration to the UK experienced a 10% decrease last year, dropping to 685,000 from the record high of 764,000 in 2022. It is important to note that in the UK, foreign nationals who come to study or work are also included in the immigration statistics.

    Report recommends UK not scrap graduate visa route

    The Migration Advisory Committee (MAC) did not find any substantial evidence of misuse of the graduate visa route. However, they expressed concerns regarding the misrepresentation of UK higher education by certain international recruitment agents. Indians made up the largest group, accounting for 42% of the 114,000 graduate visas granted in 2023.

    Commissioned by the UK government, the report released on May 15 revealed that the restrictions implemented in January 2024, which prohibit dependents from accompanying those enrolled in taught master's programs, have already significantly impacted international student recruitment for the September 2024 intake. Preliminary data indicates a 63% decrease in the number of deposits paid by international postgraduate applicants for the September 2024 intake compared to the previous year. Deposits from Indian students have experienced a 69% decline.

    The report recommended maintaining the current structure of the route, as the numbers are already decreasing. Furthermore, the introduction of new salary thresholds in April for the skilled worker visa could potentially lead to a further reduction in numbers.

    Rishi Sunak has intensified his criticism of the Labour Party, led by Keir Starmer, as polls consistently indicate that the Conservatives are trailing by a significant margin of approximately 20 points. The Prime Minister has emphasised his stance that Labour's policies would hinder the nation's economic recovery and that the opposition party is not fit to govern.

    (With inputs from agencies)
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