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UK: latest ONS figures expose 'pointless harm' of toxic immigration debate

People seeking asylum in the UK have been the focus of hostile Government policy and rhetoric © Marie-Anne Ventoura/Amnesty International UK

New figures confirm that net migration during 2022 surpassed that of previous years

Data again shows people seeking asylum constituted very small proportion of people who came to UK, with small boat crossings fewer still

‘A political obsession with numbers is going hand-in-hand with racist Government policies’ - Steve Valdez-Symonds

Responding to the publication today of new figures from the Office of National Statistics showing that net migration - the number of people arriving in the UK less the number of people leaving the country - reached 606,000 for the year in 2022, Steve Valdez-Symonds, Amnesty International UK’s Refugee and Migrant Rights Director, said:

“Migration is economically, socially and culturally enriching but a toxic political debate on immigration is doing pointless harm - both to specific communities and to the wider country as a whole. 

“A political obsession with numbers is going hand-in-hand with racist Government policies and hateful rhetoric, particularly against those seeking asylum.

“People with hopes, skills and rich life stories are being stripped of their individuality by ministers who are ruthlessly using them as political weapons while stirring anxiety and hostility about migrant numbers. 

“We need a major rethink of the entire immigration debate - no longer treating people as mere units of economic cost or benefit, and certainly not demonising - as Suella Braverman and others have done - the relatively small number of people who seek asylum in the UK.

“Any responsible Government would encourage an informed and humane discussion of immigration and asylum issues, based on recognising our shared humanity, whether we’re born here or have moved here - not systematically misinforming the public or whipping up hostility.

“Ministers must stop scapegoating refugees and migrants.”  

Small boats intensely focused upon

Today’s figures also showed that the number of people who sought asylum in the UK for the year ending March 2023 was 91,047, a relatively small proportion of the overall number of people who came to the UK to work, study, join family or for other reasons. In turn, and despite it being the constant focus of much Government policy and rhetoric in the past year, those who arrived by small boats represented fewer than half of those who sought asylum, with 40,444 recorded by the UK authorities as having made a dangerous sea crossing during this period. 

Amnesty has called for the draconian Illegal Migration Bill, currently going through Parliament, to be scrapped, for the unlawful Rwanda deal to be abandoned, and for a completely new focus to be applied to processing asylum claims fairly and efficiently rather than simply trying to avoid the country’s asylum responsibilities altogether. 

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