An Oxford University researcher claims that the number of European Union citizens living in Britain may be up to 400,000 more than what the Office for National Statistics figures indicate. He made this claim today while criticizing the “lack of quality” in official migration data.

The study’s findings will lead to questions over whether the population of the UK could also be 400,000 more than the official Government estimate of 66,796,807 in mid-2019, equivalent to a city roughly the size of Coventry. 

Francesco Rampazzo, a leading demographer, said that the research was crucial because of the pandemic. It had demonstrated how important it was to have a complete picture of the UK’s population in order to give reliable estimates on the number of people who were vaccinated. 

He questions the methods used by the Government to record EU migration. His analysis compares the estimates with the total estimated using his analysis of Facebook’s advertisement platform, the Labour Force Survey, and country-specific data on unemployment. 

ONS data showed that there were 3.6 million European immigrants in the UK, but new research shows the actual number is closer to 4million. This figure is 11% higher than the ONS estimates. The largest possible variation is 20%, which would result in a total number of 4.3 million, however, 4million seemed more probable.

This study also included a University of Southampton team and was published in Demography. It found that there had been 25% more people living in 2018, than the ONS estimates. 

MailOnline received information from the ONS stating that their ‘best estimates” show there to have been 3.5 million EU citizens living in Britain in mid-2020. It will update this data when more information is available in Census 2021.   

The study estimated the total number of European migrants in the UK (numbers in thousands). The researchers said the aim was to explain the scale of the undercount of the official data, relative to the estimates produced by the model for 2018 and 2019. The Facebook advertising data is in blue, the Labour Force Survey data is in yellow, the settled status application data is in red, and the model estimates are in green. The graphic shows that the model estimates are higher than the LFS estimates

This study calculated the number of European immigrants in Britain (numbers in the thousands). Researchers stated that the goal was to show the difference in the size of undercounts of official data to 2018 and 2019 estimates. Facebook data for advertising is shown in blue. Labour Force Survey data and settled status data data are displayed in yellow. This graphic illustrates that model estimates are more than LFS estimates.

Rampazzo stated, “In 2019, ONS estimates showed that there were 3.6 million European migrants living in the UK. However, this study suggests that the true number is closer to 4 million.

“Calculating the migration is going to always be difficult. The reason the estimate is so low is because of poor quality official migration data. Surprisingly, our research reveals that this underestimate is substantial.

“This is crucial because decision-makers need to have accurate and evidence-based data in order for them to make effective policies that will affect the lives of people.”

He added: ‘Knowing the number of migrants in a region is important for planning….for example for schools and transport. It was demonstrated by the Covid-19 pandemic that it is important to have accurate estimates of how many people are vaccinated in Britain.

Rampazzo used data from Facebook’s advertising platform to provide statistics on Mr Rampazzo, his team, and their location.

The platform can identify where the users access it and what country they’re from. This defines a migrant to be someone that has lived in one place and is now living in another. 

Facebook, as noted by him in his study, has been called a “biased digital census” and makes data accessible to advertisers for them to use to plan online advertising campaigns. 

According to him, Facebook has an “incentive” to report accurately the user’s characteristics because advertisers may ‘change platforms’ if they are unable target the right audience through Facebook.

This graphic shows variables from three of the researchers' data sources in thousands. These are the migrant variable and language variable from Facebook's advertising platform, and estimates of migrant stocks by country of birth from the Labour Force Survey. There is a clear correlation between the Facebook migrant and language variables for many countries

Below is a graphic that shows variables from three different data sources used by researchers. These variables are the language and migrant variables from Facebook, as well estimates of the number of migrants by country of origin from the Labour Force Survey. The Facebook language and migrant variables have a strong correlation for many countries. 

According to this researcher, the ONS knew that net migration from the UK was lower than expected by 16 percent in 2016 when it came out of eight EU member countries.

He also explained how the UK uses a survey-based method to gather migration data. This heavily relies on the International Passenger Survey, which was established 60 years ago. The ONS admitted that the IPS’s original purpose in August 2013 had been ‘extended beyond its intended use’.

MailOnline received a note from the ONS stating that the ONS no longer relies on the IPS but instead uses an administrative approach that looks at length of activity within the data set to determine migration.   

Also, the team looked at the Labour Force Survey. This measures inflows to and outflows from migrants. It collects data once every three months. However, they noticed that many migrants had left before the pandemic.

MailOnline received this statement from an ONS spokesperson: “Our best estimates indicate that around 3.5million EU citizens live in the UK in the middle of 2020.” 

“We will continue to update our estimates in order to present the best possible picture of population. This includes the Census 2021 results, which will offer further insights when published next years.

“Our population and migration statistics are in a phase of growth. For instance, we no longer use the International Passenger Survey to measure migration – the flow of people in and out of the UK.

“Recent analysis with new data sources has shown that, while EU and non EU migration trends generally mirror the IPS estimates, net migration was greater for EU nationals in the last decade than for non-EU citizens. This is because of our more traditional measures. 

“It is vital to remind that the data source for official migration statistics is still in its early stages. 

Mr Rampazzo shared this graphic, showing how his research team had repurposed the 'Integrated Model of European Migration' theorised at the UK-based Centre for Population Change to combine traditional data and digital traces

The graphic below was shared by Rampazzo. It shows how Rampazzo’s research team used the Integrated Model of European Migration (UK-based Centre for Population Change) to combine digital and traditional data.

Austria, Belgium was studied by the Rampazzo team. 

Rampazzo stated that he looked at the GDP and unemployment figures of each country in order to understand how migration works. Why some migrants may leave or return to their homeland.

“It’s important to combine different sources of data and not just rely on the same types. 

“The hope is this research will contribute to learning and show a method to generate a more precise understanding about the complex topic of international migration.” 

The ONS collected the information via Facebook’s advertising platform during the third week July 2018 as well as in July 2019. The ONS provided data from the Labour Force Survey for June-July 2018 and June-July 2019.

Researchers stated that, as with other EU countries: Malta and Luxembourg were exempted due to their small sizes, while Bulgaria and Croatia were not included since Facebook does no estimate expat populations.

This graph from the Migration Observatory at the University of Oxford shows how the number of EU-born migrants estimated to be living in the UK increased steadily from 2004 to 2017 before levelling off. In 2019, there were an estimated 3,616,000 migrants living in the UK but born in an EU country, and an estimated 5,866,000 migrants living in the UK born outside the EU

This chart from University of Oxford’s Migration Observatory shows that the UK has seen an increase in EU-born migrants since 2004. The trend then slowed down. An estimated 3616,000 migrants were living in the UK in 2019, but were not born in EU countries. There are also 5,866,000 migrants in the UK who were born outside of EU. 

Estonia and Slovenia were excluded because of missing values in the data, while Cyprus was left out because the Facebook ‘expat’ estimates might include all the users living there. Facebook was contacted to provide comment.

This research collaboration was led by both the Leverhulme Centre for Demographic Science and Centre for Population Change, University of Southampton. 

The University of Trento, Italy, and Qatar Computing Research Institute, Doha, both collaborated with them.

After a record number of migrants arrived in Britain last week, 853 were reported to have reached Britain.

According to government sources, the French were accused of being ‘lamentable’ inaction as a growing number faces perilous crossing.

Home Office insiders claimed their French counterparts ‘don’t give a s***’ about the growing death toll after seven migrants were feared to have lost their lives in just ten days.

This graph from the Migration Observatory shows the number of applications to the EU Settlement Scheme as at June 30, 2020 - presented as a share of ONS estimates of the UK population by nationality. It excludes Irish citizens living in the UK

The Migration Observatory has provided this graph. It shows the EU Settlement Scheme applications as of June 30, 2020. This is a percentage of ONS estimates for the UK’s population. This excludes Irish nationals living in the UK.

And for the first time, they voiced escalating concerns about France’s ineffective use of £54million of British taxpayers’ money intended to stop the flow of migrants.

The French have deployed only 220 gendarme reservists with the British cash so far – described as ‘woefully inadequate’ by a senior Home Office source.

British insiders also criticized Macron for focusing on the fishery permit dispute and not the human crisis in the Channel.

On Wednesday, 853 migrants arrived in the UK aboard small boats. This surpasses the 828 daily records set back on August 21.

Now, the total number of people who have reached Britain in the past year is 21,586, which compares to 8,410 the previous year.