Immigration as a public concern in Britain has dramatically reduced since Brexit with only 11% of people seeing it as important, according to a new study on Thursday.
British people have become more positive about the impact of immigration, revealed a report published by UK in a Changing Europe, an independent initiative conducting research on UK-EU relations.
Data from July 2022 showed that 46% of people now believe migration is a force for good, while 29% disagree.
People also think cultural and economic impacts of migration are positive. Around half of voters in 2022 said the impact was positive, up from a third in 2014.
The report indicated that in 2022, a year which saw net migration levels hit record highs, more people favored maintaining, or even increasing, levels of migration than favored reductions, “for the first time in polling history.”
“At the time of the referendum, around half of the public named immigration as a top concern every month. Yet by the end of 2022, this had fallen to an average of just 11%. Average concern about immigration in 2021 and 2022 was at its lowest levels in two decades,” added the study.
Changing immigration system in UK
The report touched upon the ‘radical’ changes in the UK immigration system following Brexit as end of freedom of movement led to openness to skilled workers and students from outside the EU.
However, economic and geopolitical developments; the COVID-19 pandemic to developments in Hong Kong, Ukraine and Afghanistan, have also had “a major impact” on migration flows.
“The post-Brexit period has seen the biggest movement of refugees to the UK since at least World War Two,” said the research, adding since the Brexit UK has granted status under humanitarian routes to around 437,000 people, around 85% are Ukrainians or Hongkongers.
Recalling that approximately 46,000 people arrived in the UK in a small boats, crossing the English Channel last year, it stressed the phenomenon of small boat crossings became “a focal point” in debates about migration and asylum in the country.
In the light of these developments, the report also evaluated the British government’s steps toward immigration issue.
“The recent government pronouncement that only people coming to the UK via ‘safe and legal’ routes will be given refuge – if it is actually implemented – implies opting out of the global asylum system altogether,” it added.
Touching on the government’s recent deterrence plans on the issue, it stressed that Rwanda policy and Nationality and Borders Act are questionable: “There is little evidence from either the UK or the EU, however, that deterrence policies deter asylum-seeking or irregular arrivals.”
The study also pointed out that Prime Minister Rishi Sunak’s words that “government will aim to offer protection only to those who arrive via a safe and legal route”, raised two questions.
“First, does the UK intend, in effect, to withdraw from the global asylum system, based on the 1951 Refugee Convention, which is based on hearing the claims of irregular entrants? Second, if the government accepts the principle that refugees should not be sent to their countries of origin where they might be at risk, where will it send them?”
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