Amazing that we have heated debates and government policy all around something about which we know virtually nothing. This government has a declared policy of reducing migration from the hundreds of thousands to the tens of thousands. http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/election-2010/7165000/conservative-manifesto.html
A policy based on complete ignorance of exactly how many immigrants really live in the UK: because we have never had accurate counting on our borders.
We can, of course count the number of asylum applications, 21,785 in 2012 (excluding dependents) according to the Refugee Council.
We also know that the now defunct UK Border Agency had a tremendous back log in processing both these and visa applications.
Numbers however are not accurate. Much of the ‘information’ relied on for net migration figures is collected by random sampling of visitors to the UK – some of whom may have good reason not to give truthful answers to intrusive questioning about the purpose of their visit.
http://www.migrationobservatory.ox.ac.uk/briefings/immigration-detention-uk in particular the section ‘Evidence gaps and limitations’
Numbers of international student visas granted are known., But numbers of overstaying students are not counted accurately., Whilst every entry on such a visa is counted, exits are not monitored. Hence an international student going home for Christmas or in the Easter break will be counted on arrival back into the country, their departure will not be logged. Now you can see how the figures don’t add up.
I have been an immigrant myself. I lived in Austria for nearly 17 years. I encountered racism very rarely. I wish the same was true for visitors to this country.