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Public dissatisfaction with the Government’s handling of immigration is at its highest level since before the EU referendum, according to new data from the Immigration Attitudes Tracker from Ipsos and British Future, which has tracked public attitudes to immigration since 2015.

The findings are set out in a new report, Immigration and the election: Time to choose, published by British Future.

Graph showing very high levels of dissatisfaction with the government on immigration since 2015

Some 69% of the public say they are dissatisfied with the way the current government is dealing with immigration and just 9% are satisfied. Only 16% of current Conservative supporters – and just 8% of those who voted Conservative in 2019 – are satisfied with the government’s handling of the issue.

Reasons for dissatisfaction vary according to people’s politics. The number one reason given is ‘not doing enough to stop channel crossings’, chosen by 54% of those who are dissatisfied, with 51% also saying it is because ‘immigration numbers are too high’. Yet 28% of those dissatisfied say it’s because of ‘creating a negative or fearful environment for migrants who live in Britain’ and for 25% the reason is ‘not treating asylum seekers well’.

For Labour supporters who are dissatisfied with the government, ‘Creating a negative or fearful environment for migrants’ (42%) is as important as ‘Not doing enough to stop channel crossings’ (41%).

Immigration and the election

When we do finally go to the polls later this year, will this be an ‘immigration election’ asks the report? Only for a minority. Around half of Conservatives (53%) say the issue is important in deciding how they will vote in the coming election, but it still comes after after the NHS (57%) and cost of living (55%) as their third most important issue. For Labour voters immigration ranks 12th in importance, with half as many saying it matters in deciding their vote (27%).

A numbers game?

In a period of high net migration, the new tracker survey finds that 52% of the public now supports reducing immigration (up from 48% in 2023). Four in ten people do not want reductions: 23% would prefer numbers to stay the same and 17% would like them to increase. Support for reducing immigration is still significantly lower than in 2015, the first year of the tracker, when 67% of the public backed reductions.

Attitudes differ significantly by politics. Seven in ten Conservative supporters (72%) want immigration numbers reduced. But most Labour supporters don’t, preferring immigration numbers to either remain the same (32%) or increase (20%), while 40% want reductions.

However, even those who want lower numbers find it difficult to identify what migration they would cut. Almost half of the 337,240 work visas granted in 2023 were ‘Skilled Worker – Health and Care’ visas. The tracker finds that 51% of the public would like the number of doctors coming to the UK from overseas to increase (24% remain the same, 15% decrease); 52% would like the number of migrant nurses to increase (23% remain the same, 15% decrease) and 42% would like more people coming to the UK from overseas to work in care homes (27% remain the same, 18% decrease).

For a range of other working roles, support for not reducing immigration numbers is higher than that for reducing them. Less than 3 in 10 people support reducing numbers of seasonal fruit and vegetable pickers, construction labourers, restaurant & catering staff, teachers, academics, computer experts and lorry drivers coming to the UK. When allocating work visas for immigration, the public would prefer the government to prioritise migration to address shortages at all skill levels (52%) than attracting people for highly skilled roles (26%).

Support for reducing the number of international students coming to the UK has increased by 4 points, with around a third of people (35%) preferring numbers to be reduced. But most of the public (53%) does not want to reduce student numbers. A third would prefer numbers to remain the same (34%) and a further fifth (19%) would like to see them increase.

The politics of immigration

As the UK heads towards a General Election, the tracker finds that the Labour Party is more trusted than the Conservatives to have ‘the right immigration policies overall’. Reform UK is slightly more trusted than the Conservatives but less trusted than Labour. Some 22% of the public says they trust the Conservative Party to have ‘the right immigration policies overall’, while 68% say they don’t trust the party. For Labour, 33% trust the party while 51% say they don’t. And 26% of the public says they trust the Reform UK Party on immigration, while 47% say they don’t – a similar score to the Lib Dems (trust 23%, distrust 50%).

Among leading politicians tested, Prime Minister Rishi Sunak had the highest ‘distrust’ score, with 70% of the public saying they do not trust the PM on immigration and 21% saying they do. Some 57% say they distrust Labour leader Keir Starmer on immigration, with 31% saying they trust him. Nigel Farage is distrusted by 59% of the public on immigration and trusted by 29% – making him slightly more trusted than former Home Secretary Suella Braverman, who is distrusted by 63% and trusted by 22% of the public.

Refugees, asylum and Rwanda

On asylum, the tracker finds that 47% of the public supports the Rwanda scheme and 29% are opposed to it. Opinion is divided by politics, with 75% support among Conservatives (and 10% opposition) compared to 31% support among Labour supporters and 47% opposition.

Only 32% of the public thinks the Rwanda scheme is likely to reduce the number of people trying to enter the UK without permission to seek asylum, while 56% think it is unlikely to do so.

Because the Rwanda scheme has often been mis-described, for instance as an offshoring scheme, the tracker tested which of three versions of the Rwanda policy people prefer:

  • 32% chose the description of the government’s actual Rwanda scheme: “Remove asylum seekers to Rwanda to claim asylum there, without first assessing the claim.”
  • 25% preferred a different version of the Rwanda scheme to the one that the government is pursuing: “Assess these asylum claims in the UK first, to only consider removals to Rwanda for those whose asylum claims fail”.
  • 26% chose “Do not send anyone to Rwanda, regardless of how they arrived.”
  • 5% chose “none of these” and 12% “don’t know”.

Overall, more people still think immigration has a positive impact on Britain (40%) than a negative impact (35%) though positivity has fallen slightly, by 3 points, since the last tracker in 2023 and from its March 2020 peak of 48%.

Ipsos interviewed a representative sample of 3,000 adults online aged 18+ across Great Britain between 17-28 February 2024. Data are weighted to reflect the population profile. All polls are subject to a range of potential sources of error.

Download and read the full report here

This Migration Observatory briefing examines the UK’s ‘No Recourse to Public Funds’ (NRPF) condition, which applies to people on temporary immigration statuses, and prevents access – in most cases – to state-funded welfare. It examines the likely number of migrants that have the NRPF condition attached to their immigration status and their characteristics, including how many are at risk of destitution.

Key points:

  • At the end of 2022, about 2.6 million people held visas that typically have NRPF, substantially up from previous years.
  • At the end of 2022, the top nationalities in visa categories with NRPF were India (665,000), China (316,000), Nigeria (268,000), Pakistan (147,000) and Hong Kong (121,000).
  • EU citizens who moved to the UK after 31 December 2020 under the new immigration system (84,000 at the end of 2022) have NRPF attached to their status.
  • All residents with irregular immigration statuses are subject to the NRPF condition. There are no official statistics about the size of this group, which is estimated to be in the hundreds of thousands.
  • Among recently arrived migrants – the group most likely to have NRPF – just under 100,000 live in economically vulnerable households (where all working-age adults are inactive, unemployed, or in low or low-medium skilled jobs) with dependent children.
  • Recently arrived migrants from Bangladesh (27%), Pakistan (21%), and Iran (18%) have the highest likelihood of living in a deprived household.
  • An estimated 10% of non-EU citizens with less than five years of residence receive public benefits (which is allowed e.g. if they are a refugee or are in a family with a UK citizen or person with recourse to public funds), compared to 25% of UK nationals.
  • There were 2,500 successful applications to lift the NRPF condition per year in 2021 and 2022, which is comparable to pre-Covid years.

Find out more about NRPF and download the briefing.

“I have always maintained that whilst immigration is a global and national phenomena, integration is a uniquely local experience.”

Senator Ratna Omidvar delivered one of the keynote speeches at the ‘Integration and Immigration: getting it right locally conference’ on 17 May organised by British Future, Hope not Hate and Barrow Cadbury Trust.  She spoke of her journey from India to Canada via warring Iran, her pride in sponsoring refugees and how integration must work on a subjective person to person level to have an impact on a national scale. Below is an abridged version of her speech:

It’s humbling being asked to come to another country to share my insights. But it is also perhaps an opportunity to engage in a bit of two-way traffic, because our system has borrowed so much from yours, in particular our parliamentary system. When I became a Senator I understood better how much we base our parliamentary democracy on yours.  So this is an appropriate opportunity to say “Thank You” and give something back.

I may not have all the answers or the silver bullets that you desire.  What I do have is a story to tell, some ideas to share, and a perspective of how my own country manages migration flows and continues to stitch immigrants and refugees into its national fabric.

I was born in Amritsar, India – home to the famous Golden Temple. After studying at the University of Delhi, I headed off the West Germany to continue my education there.

One day I went hiking in the Alps with some other foreign students. By the time we climbed back down I had met my life partner. He was from Iran, and so after we completed our studies, rather naively as it turned out, we wanted to give his home country a try.  Bad idea. We arrived in Tehran during one of the bloodiest and most turbulent periods in Iran’s history. 2500 years of Persian monarchy was coming to an end with the Islamic Revolution and the overthrow of the Shah.  We knew we had to get out but it wasn’t going to be easy. We had a child by that time – still a baby – and all air routes out of Iran were closed.

So we decided, with all the courage of youth, to pack our bags, load up the baby carriage and make the long, cold journey by road. After two horrific days, we found ourselves in a small square room on the border of Iran and Turkey. On one side of the room: a portrait of Ayatollah Khomeini. On the other: a portrait of Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, the founder of the Turkish Republic.

We were cold, very tired and very afraid. And frankly, we were telling whatever lies we could in order to get to the other side of the room. We omitted the fact that we had money crammed up the legs of the baby carriage. We did not tell the guards that our papers were not quite real.

They ripped everything apart – the diaper bag, the milk powder – but they did not think to check the carriage.

We made it to the other side. And through Turkey we eventually made it to Germany. Unfortunately they were not accepting a lot of immigrants at the time, so we eventually applied to Canada – and were rejected. But we persisted and thanks to friends in Canada, we were eventually sponsored and made that initial journey across the Atlantic.

My story is not special. The details differ from one migrant to another, but we all share similar experiences. We all leave one life to find another. And we all faced the inevitable struggles from rejection to reinvention; from prejudice to persistence.

Every immigrant stars in the same four part serial: Arrival, rejection, then slow reinvention and renewal, and then hopefully “redemption”, if not in our lives then through the lives of our children.


Canada has always been seen as a nation of immigrants, and therefore of diversity. In a recent survey, it was further determined that Canadians believe that multiculturalism, diversity and inclusions are our most notable contribution to the world. So now it is less about peacekeeping and foreign aid and more about who we are and how we get along with each other. Multiculturalism, and the acceptance of immigrants and refugees now stand out as the best way Canadians feel their country can be a role model for others and as a way to exert our influence on the global stage.

Here’s the good thing about Canada: The results of immigration in the long term are very encouraging. The children of immigrants enjoy an exceptional rate of success in school, outpacing the success of native-born Canadians. Sixty per cent of immigrants buy homes within six years of arrival. And rates of intermarriage are growing, particularly in urban centres. Many of my country’s future elites are second and third generation immigrants. This will surely continue.

The bad: Canada often struggles to recognize foreign credentials. There is a common mythology that internationally trained doctors and scientists drive our taxis and Ubers in Canada. Name-based discrimination is another barrier to entry for newcomers. In Canada you are 35% more likely to be called for a job interview if your name is Matthew and not Sameer. This limits our success greatly.

And the ugly truth is that Canada still struggles with racism, particularly towards black Canadians and indigenous peoples. Extreme poverty and rising inequality are perhaps the greatest indicators of this ugliness.

Moving to public opinion, Canada and the United Kingdom have a lot more in common than you think with respect to public opinion on migration. And while Canada is seen both within its borders and around the world as a beacon, people often need to see that multiculturalism is truly working in order to receive their stamp of approval.

Work by Canadian academics Randy Besco and Erin Tolley point to a rough rule of thirds. About one third of Canadians hold clearly negative views. They want less immigration and think minorities should receive less accommodation.  Another third are greatly idealistic about immigration and diversity, and are vocal in their rejections of proposals that negatively target specific groups. The middle third are ‘conditional multiculturalists’. They will accept those who accept their national values. For instance, they might favour restrictions on the niqab in citizenship ceremonies, but not while accessing public services. They worry that some Muslims pose a threat to public safety, but they also think Muslims deserve equal treatment.


I have always maintained that whilst immigration is a global and national phenomena, integration is a uniquely local experience. People may leave one country for another, but it is the local experience that will be felt first hand.  I am talking not just of the newcomers. I believe that the conversation about integration and inclusion has to shift to include three players – first the newcomers, second all existing residents in the local community, and third local institutions. These are the groups that help or hinder integration.

There is a rich narrative of local best practices from the world that lends itself to this idea. Cities of Migration the world over are experimenting and succeeding with unique local expressions of innovation. For example, Copenhagen teaches cycling culture to newly arrived Muslim women. Barcelona equips local residents with facts to dispel fake news about migrants. And Toronto matches immigrant job seekers with mentors drawn from the same occupation.

Good ideas have long legs, and some of the best ideas have indeed originated from right here in London: The London Living Wage is just one example. And because local communities are far better placed than their national governments to nimbly borrow and adapt ideas, the London Living Wage has been embraced by prominent labour unions and activists across Europe and North America.


Conversely, your country has just borrowed an idea from my country that deserves your attention. That idea is to allow everyday citizens to privately sponsor refugees to come to their country.

In Canada, any individual can act as de facto guarantors for refugee families during their first year of resettlement. Before these refugees arrive, these volunteers raise funds to provide them with the necessities – food, shelter. And they develop resettlement plans to ensure these refugees have the support they need to belong and thrive in our country. This can include anything from English language training and enrolments in public schools to weekend museum trips.

As an individual who has privately sponsored refugees, I can attest that it is among one of the most rewarding experiences in my life.

Today, more than 250 communities across Canada are home to these refugees.  One in three Canadians either sponsored a refugee directly or knows someone who has. This I think, is a modern nation building strategy, more about social cohesion and less about national infrastructure.

This is social engineering at its best.


So in closing I want to leave you with five good ideas which may be helpful:

First, governance matters. Now more than ever the pursuit of the national interest needs to carry through to the local level. And the procedures that govern our processes need to be clear, consistent and easy for the public to understand.  It is this confidence that has led the public to support public investments in integration.

Second, local institutions matter. We know that migration issues are local issues at their core. It is libraries, hospitals, schools, parks and bus stops that facilitate or hinder integration.  My favourite examples come from Toronto, where libraries are no longer just a place to borrow books, but they also double as job search clubs. In Dublin, it was the bus service that launched an anti-racism campaign.

Third, human nature matters. Time and time again it has been proven that barriers between migrants and other residents fall when they have opportunities to come together. In these times of post-truth or post-fact, we have to fight emotion with emotion. Reason over emotion alone will not prevail. And what better to bring emotion and empathy to the front than through human relations.  So a bit of social engineering here would be great.

Fourth, language matters. Words give shape to our values and since values shift over time, so must language. Roughly two decades ago, a small whisper campaign started in Canada. It sought to displace the word “foreign” to “internationally-trained”. Just think of the shift in your minds when you use one word instead of the other.


Perhaps the time has come to shift some of your language. Here and in Europe, the terminology of the day is “migrant”, whereas we in Canada use the word “immigrant”. Possibly because we are more comfortable with the permanent nature of the phenomena.  I have just come from Berlin, from a conversation about diversity and integration. I have left Berlin with a conviction that the words need to shift. Diversity is nothing more than a demographic reality. Integration is no more than a two way or three way process over time. The end goal is always inclusion. As someone has said, diversity is a fact, inclusion is a choice. What good is integration, if it does not guarantee inclusion – economic, social and political inclusion?

And finally, narrative and stories matter.  I have always been a big believer in the power of role models and champions. However recently I have begun to develop a slightly more nuanced view. I believe now that the story of the Immigrant as Hero is ultimately not very helpful. For one, heroes are exceptional, for another most heroes will have feet of clay.  We are far better advised to portray immigrants as ordinary people: as taxpayers, as neighbours, as good parents. We need to normalise them and make them more human and therefore more likely to be your friend, your buddy or a member of your book club.

Watch a bite-sized video of the conference which Ratna Omidvar spoke at

Which industries can bring in migrant workers – and which cannot – will be one of the defining questions in migration policy if the UK Government ends free movement after Brexit, according to a new report from the Migration Observatory at the University of Oxford.  The new report, Labour Immigration After Brexit: Trade-offs and Questions about Policy Design, considers the options for post-Brexit labour immigration policy and their potential ramifications.

The report notes that reducing EU migration after Brexit is a key government objective. However, deciding how and where to achieve such reductions is not a simple statistical exercise but involves a series of subjective, political decisions. Some industries and businesses will see bigger impacts than others, and deciding which ones should be allowed to bring in migrant workers could be a contentious process.

Perhaps the single biggest question about migration policy after Brexit is how much—if any—of the demand for low- and middle-skilled workers the Government will satisfy, the report argues. The Government has indicated that high-skilled EU workers are not likely to be the main target of measures to reduce migration after Brexit.

The report notes that the Government faces a choice between implementing a tailored migration system which is responsive to differing policy goals (such as supporting specific industries like agriculture or reducing the cost of social care) and a simpler set of rules that can be applied more uniformly across all industries. There are pros and cons to each approach: a tailored system enables the government to put immigration policy at the service of other government objectives like industrial strategy or supporting public services, but is also more complex and harder to implement.

Madeleine Sumption, Director of the Migration Observatory and author of the report, said: “There’s no single, objective metric to decide which industries should continue to receive new migrant workers after Brexit. The Government will need to juggle several different objectives, like the desire to reduce migration, support particular sectors, or to negotiate a new relationship with the European Union. Some of these objectives will inevitably conflict, so the challenge will be deciding how to prioritise them. Ultimately, a fair amount of political judgment will be needed.”


A new report from the Migration Observatory at the University of OxfordA Decade of Immigration in the British Press‘ says that over the past 10 years British national newspapers moved away from focussing on illegal immigration and instead focused on the scale of legal immigration, EU migration and the need for “control”.

The report also highlights the role that journalists and media organisations have played since 2006 in framing narratives about migration. Nearly half of all stories analysed in detail relied on statements or arguments made by the journalist, rather than reporting of the views of external sources such as policy-makers, NGOs, community organisations or academia.

Key findings from the report include:

  • A sharp increase in newspaper migration coverage over the course of the Conservative-led coalition government from 2010.
  • An apparent change in how immigration is discussed, with a significant decline in discussion of the legal status of migrants and an increase in the focus on the scale of migration from 2009 onwards.
  • A rise in the relative importance of discussion relating to ‘limiting’ or ‘controlling’ migration since 2010.
  • A sharp increase in the frequency of discussion of migrants from the EU/Europe after 2013, with a particular spike in 2014 when migrants from Romania and Bulgaria achieved full access to the UK labour market.
  • A tendency for journalists themselves to play the role of framing problems in the migration debate, rather than simply reporting on others’ (such as politicians’ or think-tanks’) analysis.
  • A tendency to hold politicians responsible for problems relating to EU migration, while migrants themselves are more likely to be held responsible for problems relating to illegal migration.

Newspapers included in the analysis were: Daily Mirror and Sunday Mirror; Daily Star and Daily Star Sunday; The People; The Sun; Daily Mail and Mail on Sunday; The Express and Sunday Express;  The Daily Telegraph and Sunday Telegraph; the Financial Times; The Guardian  and The Observer; The Independent and the Independent on Sunday; The Times and Sunday Times.

The News of the World and The I newspaper were not included in the analysis because they were not published continuously throughout the study period, leading to problems with data collection.

About the Migration Observatory

Based at the Centre on Migration, Policy and Society (COMPAS) at the University of Oxford, the Migration Observatory provides independent, authoritative, evidence-based analysis of data on migration and migrants in the UK, to inform media, public and policy debates, and to generate high quality research on international migration and public policy issues. The Observatory’s analysis involves experts from a wide range of disciplines and departments at the University of Oxford.


In a new report released today, Britain’s immigration offer to EuropeBritish Future sets out a proposal for a new, preferential system for EU immigration to the UK. Such a system, it argues, could secure UK public support for immigration in a managed system which is fair to migrants and host communities; yet remains politically deliverable in Westminster and for the EU and its member states too.  According to the report many think immigration presents an impossible conundrum for the Brexit negotiations.  But could we find a system that helps rebuild trust while continuing to welcome European migration to Britain and, crucially, gives UK negotiators a positive offer to make to the EU as it seeks the best possible trade deal?

The British Future proposal offers preferential European access to the UK labour market as part of a UK deal on trade with the EU. It retains freedom of movement for EU workers above a set skills or salary level: UK attitudes research shows that 88% of the public does not want to reduce the migration of skilled workers that our economy needs.  They would, however, like greater control of low- and semi-skilled immigration, which would be subject to quotas, set annually by Parliament, after consultation with employers and local communities. Importantly, the first opportunity to fill those low-skilled migrant quotas would go to Britain’s preferential trade partners – and the first offer of such a preferential trade and migration deal should be made to the EU.

It is essential that migrant workers are treated fairly and offered routes to settlement and citizenship and we make clear that this is not a guest worker system. We believe this is a constructive offer that is capable of securing support from within the European Union. What’s more, it could help to rebuild public trust in our immigration system here in the UK.  A preferential system would bring unskilled migration under UK control, while still ensuring that employers can recruit the staff they need to keep our economy growing, and our country remains open to the immigration that we want and need.



Migrants and refugees cross borders to live among us for many reasons. Some come fleeing human rights abuses. Some come to join other members of their families. Some come to take up work or study. But when they arrive here they often find that they face new challenges and problems. Some not only rise to these challenges for themselves, they also help others to succeed. The Women on the Move Awards celebrate and promote the contribution that migrant and refugee women, the media and their champions can make towards facing down prejudice and inspiring others.

This year there are four categories of awards. The Woman of the Year and Young Woman of the Year awards celebrate women who, having migrated or fled persecution, provide essential support and inspiring leadership at a grassroots level to others starting a new life in the UK.

The Sue lloyd-Roberts Media Award recognises the outstanding work of a journalist or producer whose reporting has promoted the protection needs of migrant and refugee women. The Champion Award will also be presented to those who work to protect or promote the rights and/or integration needs of UK-based migrant and refugee women.

Find out about previous year’s winners 2012 ,2013 ,20142015  2016.

If you know a woman who deserves to be recognised, nominate her  below.

For more information please contact [email protected].


The New Beginnings Fund was set up by a group of funders, including Barrow Cadbury Trust, to provide support to organisations involved with welcoming and integrating refugees into the UK.   Phase 1 of the Fund completed earlier this year.  Find out about some of the initiatives funded under Phase 1.  The applications for phase 2 of the New Beginnings Fund are now open.  The deadline for submitting an expression of interest form is 30 October 2016.  Please note, that web page will direct you to the relevant Community Foundation website.

For this phase grants will only be awarded in Yorkshire, the East Midlands, the North East, the South West, the South East, the East of England and Cumbria, Staffordshire, Manchester and Cheshire.

The New Beginnings Fund was set up to support small groups. Applicants must meet certain conditions before being awarded a grant. Find out more about the eligibility criteria.  Read the Documents and Policies checklist before you submit an expression of interest.

Questions in the expression of interest form and application form


A new report has been launched today, highlighting the potential for community-based alternatives to reduce the detention of migrants in the UK.  ‘Without Detention – Opportunities for alternatives’ produced by Detention Action outlines how good practices across the UK and internationally could be built on to develop a systematic approach to migration governance, prioritising meaningful engagement with migrants and avoiding detention where possible.

The Government’s recent announcement of the closure of the Dungavel detention centre in Scotland highlighted the potential for a move away from detention.  The UK currently detains over 30,000 migrants a year, one of the largest detention figures in Europe.

Following on from scathing criticisms of the detention system and protocol in a recent Parliamentary Inquiry and the Shaw Review, this report recommends that alternatives to detention have the potential to lead to a long-term reduction in detention levels.

The Home Office has announced this week that Scotland’s only Immigration Removal Centre will close next year. The closure brings an end to the indefinite detention of immigrants in Scotland.  The UK is the only country in the EU that practices this kind of detention system.  Figures show that three quarters of people leaving Dungavel last year were released back into the community.

The Scottish Refugee Council (SRC) is now seeking an end to long-term immigration detention across the UK as a whole as well as an assurance from the Home Office that Dungavel detainees will not be moved into other detentions centres in the UK.  In a statement the SRC highlighted the impact on peoples’ lives of being held in short-term holding facilities and said that being detained without a release date causes extreme distress, loneliness and isolation as well as putting people’s health and well being at further risk.  The SRC argued that this situation will only worsen if people are moved away from their support networks.