None of the churnalists writing about Migrationwatch's new figures - about the numbers of visas-leading-to-settlement granted under the new 'points based system' (PBS) - seem to have bothered to make even a cursory check that they're reliable.
Migrationwatch claims Labour's 'Tough' Points Based System Actually Increased Immigration.
The first set of figures they compare shows that the number of 'entry clearances' for skilled and highly skilled workers actually fell by over 23,000 over the period:
The next set of figures is for visa extensions, and this is where it starts to look a little shaky:
Since the PBS was only introduced in June 2008, there's no way there could be any tier 1 or 2 'visa extensions' in 2007. Unlike with the previous set of numbers, Migrationwatch do not find the 2007 'equivalents'.
This leaves a rather large hole in both their figures and their subsequent claims.
How can they realistically, and honestly, suggest the 2009 figures say anything about immigration trends when they fail to provide comparable numbers from previous years?
After all, visa extensions did exist in 2007 and were, in total, higher overall then than in 2009. Going to back to the official figures which Migrationwatch used shows this very clear decline:
- 2007 - 274,020
- 2008 - 267,865
- 2009 - 251,245
Migrationwatch also provide numbers for work permits (which dropped - 44,685 in 2007; 7,290 in 2009) and for dependents (which increased by 5,565).
Overall, going by page 33 of the official stats, the very page Migrationwatch uses, the grand total of entry clearance visas including dependents is down (2,072,430 in 2007 and 1,995,840 in 2009).
Yet in the certain categories they have selected, Migrationwatch have claimed there's been an increase of 20%:
But strip out the 86,000 from the 'visa extensions' - or find and add in the equivalent figures for work-permit holders who gained extensions in 2007 - and that increase looks rather less certain.
In any case, immigration suggests people coming in - certainly in the minds of the hacks who then wrote about these figures. Yet 'visa extensions' clearly suggests that these are people already here.
But that didn't stop the Mail saying:
If that sounds like Migrationwatch's headline, that's not a surprise - Slack's article contains all their press release quotes.
Labour's supposedly tough points-based immigration system actually led to huge increases in foreign workers...cleared to live in Britain.
Except the number of new workers 'cleared to live in Britain' was down.
The Telegraph mindlessly followed too:
But the increase in Migrationwatch's figures includes visa extensions. These are not 'extra migrants...allowed into Britain' and the first figures show the number of foreign workers let in is down.
The Express went with:
As you can see from the opening paragraph, Martyn Brown makes a similar mistake, and goes further in claiming Migrationwatch's figures are about all non-EU migrants.
The BNP, as usual, picked up on Migrationwatch's figures and, having got out a calculator and added up all the big numbers, declared 1.2million immigrants had come in under the PBS in the last three years, despite it being in force for only 18 months.
The problem is the tabloids are obsessed with trying to prove there are too many immigrants coming to the UK. Migrationwatch are too, and so any press release sent to the tabloid churnalists which has an eye-catching headline, a few respectable-looking figures and an anti-immigrant message is grist to the mill.
There's no thought given to questioning the stats, no double checking, no quotes from anyone who may challenge Migrationwatch - because they have no interest in proving them wrong.
(More analysis of Migrationwatch's figures available at Left Foot Forward)