A new report by think tank ippr published this month shows that more and more immigrants to the United Kingdom are staying for a short time and then leaving.
The outflow in the last couple of years is close to 400,000. Major findings from the report, ‘Shall we stay or Shall we Go: Re-migration trends among Britain’s immigrants’ include:
- More than 3 million immigrants to the United Kingdom in the last thirty years have subsequently left – around half the total
- The size of the exodus is increasing, with more than 190,000 leaving in 2007 – a number that is likely to be exceeded in 2008
- Short stay migration is a growing phenomenon – immigrants spending less than four years in the United Kingdom doubled between 1996 and 2007
- 85% of migrants currently in the United Kingdom who took part in an on-line survey said they were only planning to stay short term
Research in 5 countries showed that migrants tend to come to the United Kingdom for economic reasons, but leave for personal reasons. The migrants who are most likely to leave are those with high skills, good education and low barriers to movement. These people are becoming increasingly ‘super mobile’.
The findings could have important implications for the Government’s new points-based immigration and citizenship systems, which put an emphasis on highly skilled migration and greater integration of immigrants.
Tim Finch, Head of Migration at ippr, says:
‘The migration debate in the UK is fixated with the idea that immigrants come to settle and not enough attention has been paid to the fact that more and more immigrants are spending only short periods in the UK. Our research shows that many groups of migrants are now increasingly mobile. They are coming to the UK to study and work for short periods and then they are moving on. As global competition for highly skilled migrants increases in future years, schemes to retain migrants may become as important as attracting them in the first place.’
The report’s policy recommendations to the Government include:
- Taking more active steps to encourage some migrants to stay longer in the UK through using the points based system, retention schemes, simplified visa extensions and tax incentives
- Piloting and promoting Migration Information Centres and ‘Circular Migration’ schemes so that short stay migration is better managed
- Making sure that migrant integration strategies take into account the increasing amount of short stay migration
- Improving links with former immigrants to the UK and treating them as a ‘secondary diaspora’ which could be regarded as an economic and diplomatic asset.
Phil Woolas, Borders and Immigration Minister, said:
‘This report further demonstrates that migrants come to the UK for a short period of time, work, contribute to the economy and then return home. Our new flexible points based system gives us greater control on those coming to work or study from outside Europe, ensuring that only those that Britain need can come.
‘This week I announced proposals which will break the link between temporary settlement and permanent residence. Only those that who earn the right to stay should be allowed a British passport.’
Immigration Matters Comment
The report will come as no surprise to those who hold a more balanced view on UK migration. Migrants have always come and gone, which also applies to the millions of Brits working abroad.
The UK also makes it far more difficult to settle here than Canada, Australia and the USA, and the 2009 Borders Immigration and Citizenship Act will increase the time it takes to settle from 5 to 8 years.
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