UK immigration data 'still a guess'

29 Jul 2013 | Posted by Carl Thomas

A group of MPs has stated that official UK immigration data remains “little better than a best guess”.

The Public Administration Committee issued a report that claimed the current information is “not fit for purpose” as it does not enable authorities to accurately assess how many non-UK residents are entering and leaving the country on UK visas and asylum requests or other methods.

Immigration minister Mark Harper has defended the data, claiming that it is “very robust” and accurate”. But the MPs contested that the Home Office and Office for National Statistics are “blunt instruments” for compiling such information, adding that they are “not adequate for understanding the scale and complexity of modern migration flows”.

The International Passenger Survey (IPS) came under particular criticism, and not for the first time. The method was designed back in the 1960s for examining trends in tourism and uses 'random interviews' of arriving and departing travellers, rather than counting how many people are actually entering and leaving the country.

Bernard Jenkin, chairman of the committee said that the infrastructure is in place to gain a more accurate view of UK migration trends.

"As an island nation, with professional statisticians and effective border controls, we could gain decent estimates of who exactly is coming into this country, where they come from, and why they are coming here," said Mr Jenkins. "As it is, the top line numbers for the government's 100,000 net migration target are little better than a best guess - and could be out by tens of thousands."

Speaking to BBC Radio 4's World This Weekend, Mr Harper continued to express confidence in the government's methods, stating that new measures have already reduced overall net migration by “a third”, while reportedly increasing the number of skilled workers moving to Britain.