One of the big questions arising from today’s immigration statistics is how there can be 260,000 immigrants from the European Union (EU) over the past year yet around 650,000 National Insurance Numbers (NINos) handed to EU citizens.
According to the Office for National Statistics’ (ONS) Quarterly Migration Report, gross EU migration into the UK stood at 257,000 in the year ending September 2015, an increase from 246,000 in the year ending September 2014.
However, the number of new NINos handed to EU citizens in the same period was nearer 650,000, a wide discrepancy.
EU migration: immigration statistics (survey based) vs National Insurance number registrations pic.twitter.com/rDAwC7liuZ
— Jonathan Portes (@jdportes) February 25, 2016
One reason is the ONS relies on the International Passenger Survey (IPS) for its migration statistics, which is an entry-point survey for people travelling into the United Kingdom. The numbers are then extrapolated to estimate the number of people entering and leaving the UK.
An obvious problem with the method is it cannot account for illegal immigration as it only surveys people at official, legal entry points.
Causing further confusion, however, is that fact that just because someone has been awarded a NINo it does not necessarily mean they entered the country that year. For example, some of the 650,000 new NINos awarded to EU citizens last year may have been to people who have already been living in the UK for several years.
Nonetheless, the difference remains striking.
Breitbart London reported in August on such a discrepancy in another set of migration statistics which suggested that for the year ending March 2015, only 53,000 new Bulgarian and Romanian immigrants entered the UK – yet 214,000 new NINos were awarded to Bulgarian and Romanian citizens in the year ending June 2015.
This came despite Romanian and Bulgarian migration into the UK in mid-2012 being below 10,000 on the year, and still only around 20,000 at the end of 2013.