World Bulletin / News Desk
British Prime Minister David Cameron's Conservatives suffered a setback on Thursday, less than three months before a national election, after data showed they had missed their pledge to cut net annual migration to the tens of thousands by a huge margin.
Instead, official data showed a net 298,000 people moved to Britain in the year to September 2014, an increase of more than 40 percent on the previous 12 months and higher than when the Conservative-led coalition government took power in 2010.
With many polls showing the Conservatives are neck-and-neck with the opposition Labour party ahead of the May 7 vote and immigration one of voters' top concerns, the rise is awkward for Cameron who is under pressure from the rise in popularity of the UK Independence Party, which wants to strongly curb immigration.
UKIP said Cameron's immigration pledge was "in tatters."
"This government's policy is fatally holed beneath the water line and is sinking fast," said UKIP migration spokesman Steven Woolfe, describing the numbers as "absolutely staggering."
Cameron, who has pledged to re-negotiate Britain's ties with the EU ahead of a 2017 membership referendum if re-elected, has set out plans to restrict EU migrants' access to welfare benefit payments in a bid to make it less attractive to come to Britain.
Releasing its final migration data before the election, Britain's Office for National Statistics (ONS) said the number of EU citizens coming to Britain increased by 43,000 to 251,000 during the period.
The number of immigrants from Romania and Bulgaria, whose restrictions on working in Britain were removed on Jan. 1 last year, was 37,000, up from 24,000 over the same period in 2013.
With British economic growth outpacing most of the EU it has become an increasingly appealing destination for those seeking work. The ONS said that between October and December 2014 employment of EU nationals in Britain was 269,000 higher than a year earlier.Last Mod: 26 Şubat 2015, 13:36