UK misses key immigration target before election

2015-02-26 21:07
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London - Britain's government has failed to deliver a promised cut in immigration, statistics showed on Thursday, ahead of a closely-fought general election in May in which it will be a key issue.

Prime Minister David Cameron had pledged in 2011 to reduce net migration to below 100 000 by the end of the current parliamentary term.

But the last set of numbers from the Office for National Statistics before 7 May's election put the figure at 298 000 in the year to September.

That represents an increase of 40% in the last year and means that net migration is now above the level it was at when Cameron's Conservatives took office in a coalition government in 2010.

The issue is likely to be a highly sensitive one on the campaign trail. Senior Conservatives are worried about the threat posed to them in a number of seats by the anti-EU UK Independence Party, which wants to impose strict controls on immigration.

"The government should be ashamed of its abject failure to keep control of the constantly rising numbers of those arriving here," UKIP's migration spokesman Steven Woolfe said in response to the figures.

Official statisticians flagged a "statistically significant" increase in the number of people arriving from Romania and Bulgaria, both of which joined the EU in 2007.

If he wins the general election, Cameron has vowed to renegotiate Britain's relationship with the European Union, including over immigration policy, ahead of a referendum on whether it should leave the bloc by 2017.

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