Immigration: how UK net migration compares with Europe as it hits 606,000 - including France and Germany

Net migration in the UK has hit 606,000 – here we reveal how the figures compare with neighbouring countries in the European Union.

The UK’s net migration figure has reached 606,000, significantly higher than what most countries in the European Union (EU) have recorded in recent years, analysis by NationalWorld can reveal.

The net migration figures published today (25 May) by the Office for National Statistics (ONS) shows in the year ending December 2022, immigration was estimated at around 1.2 million and emigration was 557,000, leaving a net migration figure of 606,000 in the year ending 2022. Net migration is the difference between immigration (people who moved to a country) and emigration (people who moved out of a country). 

The figures are a slight drop on the previous figures (year ending September 2022) when net migration peaked at 637,000 – although that figure was also only released today, meaning the latest publication reveals record levels of net migration. The ONS has revised how it calculates migration figures and for the first time asylum seekers are now included in the figures – but figures going back to 2018 have also been revised to reflect the new counting method, so the latest figures reflect a true increase

Home Secretary Suella Braverman has repeatedly called for immigration figures to be curbed and last year reportedly told a Tory party conference fringe meeting she would like net migration to fall to the tens of thousands – far below what has just been recorded by the government’s official stats agency. Last week (15 May) Braverman said that training UK workers to pick fruit or drive HGVs could help tackle immigration. 

Since the UK left the European Union in January 2020, net migration plummeted (due to the Covid pandemic) but has since rebounded – but how do other countries across the continent compare?

How do migration figures compare across Europe?

Because of differences in reporting periods and in methodology the UK and EU figures are not directly comparable, however they do give us a strong indication of how immigration is affecting countries within the bloc. Eurostat, the statistical office of the EU, publishes annual immigration and emigration statistics for each nation which has allowed us to analyse how EU countries net migration figures have changed between 2010 and 2021, a slightly older timeframe than what we have for the UK.

Official figures show the UK has a much higher proportion of foreign-born inhabitants than the EU. Data published by the ONS as part of the 2021 census found 10 million residents were born outside England and Wales, representing 16.8% of all inhabitants. In comparison, 38 million people living within the EU were born outside it, representing 8.5% of the population, according to data published by the European Commission


Analysis of Eurostat figures also show how net migration has changed across the bloc between 2010 and 2021. The chart below shows the top 10 EU countries with the highest net migration figures in 2021 and how these compared to the UK’s net migration figures in 2021 and 2022. View the chart on the Flourish website


Germany recorded the highest net migration figures of all EU countries in 2021. The country recorded a net migration figure of more than 330,000 that year – double the amount recorded in Italy which had a net migration figure of 160,000, the second highest in the EU. France had the third highest, recording just under 160,000. 

Germany’s net migration figures have remained above 200,000 since 2011, peaking in 2015 during the European migrant crisis when it hit 1.2 million – double the figure the UK recorded last year. During this major event Angela Merkel, the German Chancellor at the time, took an ‘open door policy’ to migration and reportedly accepted 1.1 million refugees that year, largely Syrians and Afghans fleeing war. The chart below shows how net migration figures have changed annually for Germany and the other countries in the EU since 2010. Click here if you can’t see the chart below.


Additional analysis by NationalWorld found that when population levels are taken into account, Luxembourg had the highest net migration rate in the EU in 2021. The nation had a net migration of 9,376, which was a rate of 1,498 for every 100,000 people in the population in 2020. The UK in comparison had a rate of 592.3 in that year by the same measure. The chart below shows which EU countries had the highest net migration rates compared to the UK. Click here if you can’t see the chart to view it in a new tab


​Who and what is driving the UK migration figures?

The ONS found that most people arriving to the UK in 2022 were non-EU nationals (925,000), followed by EU (151,000) and British (88,000). It said people coming from non-EU countries for work, study, and for humanitarian purposes, including people from Ukraine and Hong Kong, contributed to the high levels of immigration in the last 18 months.


Jay Lindop, director of the centre for international migration at the ONS, said unprecedented world events and the lifting of restrictions were the driving forces behind the UK’s net migration rate.

"There are some signs that the underlying drivers behind these high levels of migration are changing,” he said. As lockdown restrictions were lifted in 2021, we saw a sharp increase in students arriving. Recent data suggests that those arriving in 2021 are now leaving the country, with the overall share of non-EU immigration for students falling in 2022. In contrast, those arriving on humanitarian routes increased over the 12 months. Evidence also suggests immigration has slowed in recent months, potentially demonstrating the temporary nature of these events.”

Earlier this week (23 May) the UK government announced new restrictions to “substantially cut net migration” figures. The new rules mean student visa routes would be restricted to stop international students from bringing family members on all but post-graduate research routes. It also said it would ban people from using a student visa as a “backdoor route” to work in the UK.