What's that? The number of foreigners arriving in the UK was lower than last time? There's not as much white flight? I demand a recount.

Sometimes, as I shuffle my way onto the train to work with a blank expression, looking as if I've just witnessed a bomb blast and now I have to find my way to Llandudno, I pick up a copy of the Metro. Ooh look my brain might just barely mumble through the fog, there's John Sargeant or there's some woman or other, and she's getting out of a car with a handbag - there's a close up of her shoes for some reason. But sometimes, the paper can give handy hints for what to expect from that day's Mail.

Today's included a tiny item in a sidebar about immigration, pointing out how net immigration is up this year although the total arriving has fallen, because more people are staying in the country. Ah I thought, I bet the Mail's coverage will be way more shouty than that. Why is there a fuzzy picture of Robert-Kilroy Silk in a yellow vest? Surely that's illegal.

Turns out I was right. Not about Kilroy in a yellow vest, unfortunately - but about the Mail story. 'Immigration influx last year was second highest on record as 500,000 foreigners make Britain home' bays the headline. Even though I'd been tipped off by the Mail's free sister paper about the bollocksness of the scaremongering, I still almost did a dirt in my trousers. Second highest number of brown people with murder in their eyes foreigners? How will I be able to leave the house now?

Of course, the paper doesn't reveal until it's got you hooked that the actual highest number was in 2006, meaning that the number of foreigners arriving has actually fallen, but there's more that's wrong with it than that. Let's kick it old school with a straight fisk shall we? Before we go, you'll need the actual immigration figures to look at. Ready? DJ - bus' it:
The level is surprising given it came at the onset of the credit crunch and just when job prospects began to be squeezed.
These are 2007 figures. The credit crunch stuff didn't begin in earnest until 2008, although there were rumblings about it while 2007 had halfway gone.
High immigration continued despite ministerial rhetoric last year saying it should be curbed, and even though the Government admitted that it could contribute to social tensions.
Erm...except it was lower than the year before.
The figures, from the Office of National Statistics, also showed that Britons looking to move abroad began to feel the impact of the economic crunch.

The numbers emigrating fell by 36,000 in 2007, mainly in the last six months when the plunging value of the pound against the euro began to dent the hopes of those looking to move to Spain or France.
When British people leave the country in high numbers, it's a bad bad thing because it's evidence of 'white flight'. When more stay, it's a bad bad thing because it's evidence of the impact of the economic crunch. Is there anything that could happen to the number of British citizens leaving/staying in the UK that wouldn'tbe interpreted as a bad bad thing?

Also, note the difference between how the paper explains why the number of people leaving has dropped, but fails to interpret a fall in the number of foreign citizens coming to the UK for a year or more as a drop. In fact, it says:
But increasing immigration means Britain faces achieving the symbolic population of 70million, which Immigration Minister Phil Woolas has said should never be reached, well in advance of Whitehall's predicted date of 2028.
Increasing immigration? It actually fell.
The figures led to renewed demands for immigration to be capped as unemployment threatens to cause heightened tension over newcomers seen as undermining Gordon Brown's pledge of 'British jobs for British workers'. [Yadda yadda yadda]
Why is this a problem? Immigration has fallen. With the crunch and Minister for Moronic Gobshites Phil Woolas' new 'Australian style' points system (which is actually more strict than Australia's system) being introduced this year, it's highly likely that the numbers will drop even further in 2008.
But Shadow Home Secretary Dominic Grieve said: 'The Government should adopt our policies of an annual limit on non-EU immigration, transitional controls on future EU immigration and establishing a UK border police force.'
The rate of non-EU migration is lower in 2007 than 2006. That fall is the only reason the numbers for foreign arrivals is lower than 2006's.
Former Labour minister Frank Field, who has called for tougher restrictions, said: 'This will come as a shock to ministers. Net migration is much higher than expected. This means immigration has added a million people to the population in just five years. Unless firm action is taken soon, our population will hit 70million earlier than forecast. There is no way public services can cope with such a rapid increase.'
The reason net immigration is up is because fewer UK citizens are leaving. Something the Metro pointed out, but its sister paper thinks is irrelevant. Which is curoius, since high numbers of UK citizens leaving justify their own headlines screaming about 'white flight'.
Sir Andrew Green, of the Migrationwatch think tank, said: 'Net migration is much higher than expected. It is close to a record.

'The figures for 2007 do not take account of the impending recession. But the history of previous recessions is that their effect is only temporary. After a couple of years, immigration has invariably resumed its upward path.'
And in a shocking new development, someone from MigrationWatch says something negative about the latest set of migration figures. Bloody hell, things must be really bad. Ahem. Notice how his comment appears to be in response to the fact that the number of foreigners arriving has fallen - but the Mail hasn't exactly shouted about that, and has even referred to it a increasing..

The wierd thing about this story is that you'd expect the figures that make up the net migration total to tickle the Mail's positive erogenous zones. Trouble is, it doesn't have any.

Fewer UK citizens are leaving the UK than in 2006, and the net outflow has dropped. Fewer foreign citizens are arriving. The net inflow of Commonwealth citizens is lower than last year. But, of course, these figures must fit the overarching narrative, so UK Citizens staying is now a bad thing, and a drop in the number of foreign citizens arriving is turned into the 'second highest ever' in one breath and calls it 'increasing immigration' in another.

Lastly (I'm ignoring the clumsily tacked on separate article about asylum seekers because I cannot be arsed with it) there's a handy box of facts for us. Except, er, at least one isn't. It includes the familiar 13,000 per year prediction for Eastern Europeans arriving made before 2004, with the familiar failure to point out that it was based on what would happen if other EU countries didn't introduce restrictions, except they did. Alongside that, it includes '1,000,000 - have arrived since that prediction'. According to the figures this story is supposed to be about, 333,000 have arrived since 2004 for a year or more. The net total is 268,000. The paper is actually referring to the total number of people who applied to the Worker Registration Scheme, including those whose application was refused, those who never arrived in the UK and everybody that has arrived but left in the last four years. Plus, the actual total is closer to 900,000 than a million. Hurrah!

Roll on November 2009, when the Mail will regale us with an article about how terrible the immigration statistics are for Britain. Whatever they end up actually saying. Note for Mister Woolas: It doesn't matter how hard you try to look with your tabloid pleasing rhetoric, the tabloids will ignore it and make you look even more stupid than you manage yourself. By adopting the tabloids' language and standpoint, you even give them ammo to shoot at you with. You moron.


Missed out this:
The flow of arrivals last year pushed the population up by 237,000, the second highest figure on record.
The paper neglects to mention that the total number of UK citizens leaving the country is lower in 2007 than in the record year - which is why net migration in 2007 was way higher.

I actually missed the mention of net migration earlier because I'd fallen for the paper's trick of mentioning a different figure in the headline than a couple of sentences in the article - both of which being the second highest. The net figure is probably what the article refers to when it talks about a rise in immigration, but it puts a different in the headline because it's more scandalous. Gotta sell those papers.


Akela said...

A big thank you for doing that digging. I saw the story in the Mail and had a strong suspiscion that there must have been something in the figures I wasn't being told, I just couldn't be arsed to do the research.

Five Chinese Crackers said...

No worries. The figures actually aren't that distorted this time round - it's just that the paper has highlighted the figures that'll scare its readers and ignored or spun the ones that won't.

Except for the 'million Eastern Europeans' one though. I can't believe the paper still gets away with this.

Mitchell Young said...

Whether 2nd or 1st or 3rd highest total ever, there is far too much immigration. There is far too much immigration into the Western world in general. We know that the amount it adds to the economy for the native born is nugatory -- we know it stresses public services and facilities, we know it harms local environments, we know it skews the income distribution toward inquality, (since you are such a stickler -- just ask and I'll give you cites , or you can start by Googling Jorge Borjas) and we know it creates social tensions (which is why anyone robustly anti-immigration whose is in the public eye will be smeared or arrested. So whether its 500,000 or 250,000 is really beside the point.

Five Chinese Crackers said...

I know the figures don't really matter for the tabloids - they just use big sounding numbers to scare people with.

But to argue that they don't actually matter because we know X or Y is just starting with your conclusions. How do we know those things? Are they balanced by other things? Without looking at numbers at some point, we can't work those things out.