UK migration


What’s the challenge?

Economic opportunities no longer stop at national borders; it is normal and desirable for people to move around to work, whether within the UK or internationally.

Too often controversy surrounding UK migration and what impacts migrants have on our economy and society is based on myth, fear and falsehood. We explore some of the issues and misconceptions around changing European workforce patterns.


  • The UK is one of the most densely populated countries in Europe
  • There were 24,914 asylum applications to the UK in 2014
  • In 2013 12.4% of the UK population was born abroad
  • 40 Percent of Fortune 500 Companies were founded by immigrants or their Children e.g. Google, Yahoo, eBay, Tesco
  • Residents born in India represent the most numerous non-UK born group in London (262,247 residents in 2011)
  • London had the highest number as well as proportion of non-UK born residents out of all the regions of England and Wales in both 2001 and 2011.

Sources. The Migration Observatory, The University of Oxford,

, Forbes

Tier system

There is a five ‘tiered’ points scheme which people applying to work in the UK are categorised.

  • Tier 1: Highly skilled individuals to contribute to growth and productivity
  • Tier 2: Skilled workers with a job offer to fill gaps in United Kingdom labour force
  • Tier 3: Limited numbers of low skilled workers needed to fill temporary labour shortages
  • Tier 4: Students
  • Tier 5: Youth mobility and temporary workers: people allowed to work in the United Kingdom for a limited period of time to satisfy primarily non-economic objectives.


Philippe le Grain, writer, journalist and economic consultant
Philippe Legrain is a writer, journalist and economic consultant. His latest book, Immigrants: Your Country Needs Them (2007), was shortlisted for the 2007 Financial Times Goldman Sachs Business Book of the Year Award.

A visiting fellow at the London School of Economics’ European Institute, journalism fellow of the German Marshall Fund of the United States and contributing editor to Prospect magazine, he is also a commentator on globalisation, migration and European issues for publications such as the Financial Times and the Guardian, as well as for BBC TV and radio. Previously trade and economics correspondent for The Economist and special adviser to World Trade Organisation Director-General Mike Moore, his first book was Open World: The Truth about Globalisation (2002).

“Migrants are a self selected minority, who are often young, hard-working and enterprising. This is because like starting a new business, migrating is a risky enterprise and hard work is needed to make it pay off.” Philippe Legrain


Sir Andrew Green, Migration Watch UK
Sir Andrew Green was a professional diplomat for 35 years.  After studying Arabic, he spent half his career in the Middle East where he served in six posts   The remainder of his service was divided between London, Paris and Washington.  He was Ambassador in Syria (1991-94) and then Director for the Middle East in the Foreign Office before serving for four-and-a-half years as Ambassador in Saudi Arabia.   He retired in June 2000.

He has since devoted his time to voluntary work.   He is a member of the Advisory Board of Concordis, a charity specialising in conflict resolution.  From 2002 –5 he was Chairman of Medical Aid for Palestinians, a British charity seeking to improve health care for Palestinians both in Palestine and in refugee camps.

He founded MigrationwatchUK towards the end of 2001.  It is an independent, voluntary organisation funded by donations from the public.   It believes that the public are entitled to know the facts, presented in a comprehensible form; it is then for the political system to decide what action to take.



Khalid Koser, Geneva Centre for Security Policy
Khalid Koser is an expert on migration policy. He is a Course Director at the Geneva Centre for Security Policy. Prior to this appointment he was Fellow in Foreign Policy Studies at the Brookings Institution, and before that Senior Policy Analyst for the Global Commission on International Migration.

”People are moving due to growing global disparities in development, democracy and demography” Khalid Koser, Geneva Centre for Security Policy 

”Asia saw migration as being a solution to the financial crisis… They used migrant labour to lower cost of production, to increase competitiveness and to try to move their way out of the crisis and to an extent, it worked in the Asian context.” Khalid Koser, Geneva Centre for Security Policy


Further reading

British migration to rural France,  Dr Michaela Benson for ‘Ask the experts’,

Calais and the push-pull of migration, Geographical Magazine, 2015

Open borders:outsiders, immigration and moral politics, Geography Directions, 2012

The migration conversation, Geographical Magazine, 2015

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