Mixed results on requests for information about EU immigrants

10 March 2016 | Conor James McKinney

The government has released more information about EU immigrants, but will not publish the most important figures.

The Department for Work and Pensions has reversed its previous decision not to release a more detailed explanation of the government’s claim that 40% of recent EU immigrants claim benefits.

We were alerted by a letter from the UK Statistics Authority earlier today.

The information may help us and other researchers understand the Prime Minister’s claim that:

“around 40 percent of all recent European Economic Area migrants are supported by the UK benefits system… with each family claiming on average around £6,000 a year of in work benefits alone”.

The government released some information about these numbers after Mr Cameron said this in a speech, and more last month, but it wasn’t sufficient. The National Institute of Economic and Social Research asked for details using Freedom of Information laws.

Now that they’re out, we’ll be digging into what they mean.

But a similar request by the Institute’s Jonathan Portes, this time for National Insurance numbers used by EU immigrants, has been turned down.

We wrote to the Authority in December to express our concern about the government’s refusal to make this information public.

There has been controversy about why there are so many more National Insurance numbers held by EU citizens than estimated EU immigrants.

Full Fact recently wrote about this under the headline “Can we trust our immigration figures?”

With more information about how many National Insurance numbers are actually being used by EU citizens, we would be a step closer to understanding whether our estimates of immigration tell us what we need to know.

The Office for National Statistics, which is independent of government, has told us it’ll be publishing a report in May this year that may give us a more thorough explanation.

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