- 73% of the public now say the government is handling the issue of immigration badly (YouGov May 2022).
- The public know both that immigration is skyrocketing (breaching a clear promise by the government to reduce and control it) and that they are not being given a clear picture of what is happening on the issue.
- The problem has been worsened by recent botched decisions on immigration statistics.
- Previously the level of net migration was published with a delay of just six months.
- However. we now have a delay of about a year.
- The ONS say that immigration statistics for the year to June 2021 will be published at the end of this May.
- As a result, the public view of what is occurring on immigration risks being muddied. Transparency, accountability and democracy are at risk at the time when they were needed most (during the first year of an entirely new immigration system coming online).
- Such transparency was also crucial as the UK was in the midst of a pandemic (the worst global crisis since the Second World War), an economic downturn and the UK had just made a huge shift in foreign policy by leaving the European Union.
- One serious problem is that the ONS scrapped publication of the well-established International Passenger Survey (IPS), on which immigration figures had been based for decades, but without yet having anything reliable to replace it with.
- They are now trying to create a substitute system (based upon administrative data) which has huge delays and multiple data coverage gaps. The repeated delays to statistical releases by the ONS are a testament to the confusion and show that – two years on – the ONS still does not have anything viable to replace the IPS with.
- We are effectively flying blind and in the dark just as immigration skyrockets to potentially its highest ever level.
- Instead of regular and transparent releases, we get ad-hoc and often postponed releases based upon ever-evolving methodology.
- All of this chaos in the handling of statistics is particularly unhelpful to the public debate on very serious issues which are now increasingly facing our society as a result of mass, uncontrolled immigration.
What should be done?
The public must be given a much clearer picture of what is actually happening on immigration levels. In order to achieve this, the government should step in to restore the IPS and give the public a fast and clear picture of what is happening on net migration. Two quarters delay should be the maximum time lag.
The government should also expedite the release of the latest net migration statistics, statistics on national insurance number registrations for adult overseas nationals for the period after June 2021 and Exit Checks analysis for 2020/21.
It is important to note that, because of repeated delays in the publication of vital migration and other statistics by government departments (meaning less transparency for the public), more study will be crucial in order to further refine our understanding of immigration trends, and the level of net migration during 2021.