This briefing reviews the migration trends and policy changes in 2011 and looks forward to possible developments in 2012. Next year will be a crucial one for the government, as it moves towards the halfway point of a parliament during which it has pledged to reduce net immigration to the 'tens of thousands'.

In 2012, we expect:

  • a fall in non-EU immigration of around 10 per cent
  • further curbs on skilled migrant entry and continued attempts to reduce numbers of non-EU students
  • net migration - which was just over 250,000 in 2010 - to have fallen to around 220,000 in 2011 (official figures will not be available until later in 2012) and then to around 180,000 in 2012.

This drop in numbers - which is a long way from meeting the Conservatives' election pledge - will partly result from increased restrictions and controls. But it will also reflect the continuing poor performance of the UK economy, which is reducing demand for labour and lowering the job prospects for EU migrants. It is vital to get the UK's migration policies right before our economy returns to growth and demand both for migration opportunities and migrant workers increases.