The latest UK immigration statistics from the Office for National Statistics have revealed an increase in net migration in the year to December 2012.
According to the data, net migration rose from 153,000 recorded in the year to September 2012 to 176,000. The increase is in contrast to a downward trend in migration that has taken hold since prime minister David Cameron started to introduce a range of regulations designed to cut immigration down to the "tens of thousands".
Analysis of the figures shows that the increase in the net figure was driven by a decline in the number of migrants leaving the UK. This figure fell from the 351,000 previously recorded to 321,000. The number of immigrants arriving continued to fall, with a drop from 566,000 to 497,000 seen.
A drop in immigrants from the New Commonwealth countries stood out in particular, with a fall from 151,000 to 97,000 recorded. This was blamed on a decline in the number of people coming to study in Britain from these countries.
UK immigration minister Mark Harper commented on the data: "We are committed to bringing net migration down from the hundreds of thousands to the tens of thousands. We are working across government to protect public services and ensure our welfare system is not open to abuse."
However, shadow immigration minister Chris Bryant stated that the new figures were a "blow" to home secretary Theresa May's approach to cutting immigration. He stated that the government is "failing badly on illegal immigration, which is major concern to the public and is getting worse and worse with fewer people being stopped at the border, absconsions up and deportations down".
The government continues to claim to be tightening regulations around UK visa access, particularly in the areas it sees as vulnerable to abuse, such as student visas. It will take time to see what is really driving the intermittent reduction in net migration.