A new study showed that millions of migrants had left the United Kingdom, marking this as the largest population decline since World War II.
From July 2019 to September 2020, more than 1.3 million people who were born abroad decided to leave the United Kingdom just over a year of being there, according to the UK’s Economic Statistics Centre of Excellence or ESCoE on January 14. It described the event as an “unprecedented exodus” driven by the economic decline caused by the coronavirus pandemic.
This particular trend was pronounced in London. The ESCoE stated that almost 700,000 people might have left the UK during the same period. If the numbers are correct, that means that the city had lost around 80% of its population in just 14 months.
The analysis was based on the statistics released by the UK labor. Authors of the study wrote that many job losses in sectors rely on workers from overseas, like the hospitality sector.
The authors stated, “It seems that much of the burden of job losses during the pandemic has fallen on non-UK workers, and that has manifested itself in return migration, rather than unemployment.”
Brexit and Pandemic Fueled the Departures
The COVID-19 pandemic has battered the United Kingdom and has currently killed more than 86,000 people, and is still threatening millions of people’s lives and livelihoods. The pandemic has also plunged the country into its deepest recession for the first time in 300 years.
However, many people who left the UK last year told Al Jazeera that the COVID-19 pandemic was not the only reason they’ve decided to leave. They said that it was mainly due to the Brexit deal.
The coronavirus’s threat was the final push for some of them to leave the UK, as the Brexit deal heightened anti-immigration rhetoric and the political crises that followed the UK after it announced its departure from the EU.
The ESCoE study’s authors stated that the exodus might be temporary as the pandemic and the Brexit deal happened at around the same time and may have overwhelmed the system. The authors suggested that some may come back once the pandemic eases.
Despite the hope, the authors still warned that there is a possibility that there is a permanent drop in London. They wrote, “Big shifts in population trends in London, driven by economic changes and events, are by no means historically unprecedented. Inner London’s population shrank by fully 20 percent in the 1970s, so the recent picture of sustained growth driven by international migration is relatively recent.”
Immigrants noted that the United Kingdom “changed for the worse” as the country struggled to detach itself from the EU. Some stated that Brexit is an enormous and tragic mistake fueled by misplaced exceptionalism, xenophobia, and shortcomings in the democratic structures of the United Kingdom.
The immigrants also reiterated the idea that COVID-19 played no part in their decision to emigrate; it was just the final straw.