Friday, 26 August 2011

Net migration, not immigration

The front page headline on today's Express claims 'Immigration soars 20% in a year':

The article that follows, by the paper's political correspondent Martyn Brown, continues with this line:

The number of foreigners coming into Britain surged by a massive 21 per cent last year, shattering the Government’s pledge to bring immigration down.

Official figures yesterday showed the number of immigrants soared to 239,000 – up from 198,000 in 2009.

But what Brown and the Express are calling 'immigration' is, in fact, net migration. It was net migration that rose 21% between 2009 and 2010.

As the Office for National Statistics report states:

The provisional estimate of net long-term migration to the UK in the year to December 2010 was 239,000, an increase of 21 per cent on the estimate of 198,000 in the year to December 2009...

The provisional estimate of total long-term international immigration to the UK in the year to December 2010 was 575,000. This level has been broadly maintained since 2004.

Indeed, far from increasing by 21%, the rise in the number of immigrants coming to the UK rose by 1.4% between 2009 and 2010.

The Express was not alone in getting this wrong. The Mail's website used almost the same headline ('Immigration soared by 20% last year') although the print version used a different, more accurate one. The Mirror and Independent used similarly misleading headlines although both used 'net migration' in the first sentence of their articles.

The Press Complaints Commission's guidance note on refugees and asylum seekers states:

The Commission is concerned that editors should ensure that their journalists covering these issues are mindful of the problems that can occur and take care to avoid misleading or distorted terminology.

(Hat-tips to Full Fact, Left Foot Forward and New Statesman)


  1. "The Express was not alone in making this mistake."

    Interesting use of the word "mistake" there.

  2. Immigration hasn't increased. Emigration has gone down - i.e. the number coming in has remained steady but the number leaving has decreased. The story has been written in a misleading way in almost all the papers and TV news bulletins.

  3. Darren - Yes, good point. Have changed the wording slightly.

  4. I spotted the 'error' straight away, but never mind - there's a picture of Carol Vordeman's bust to keep readers happy!

  5. Isn't immigration the opposite of emigration? How can you mix them up?

  6. Nice bit of woman-hating with the Carol Vorderman story there as well from the Express.


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