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How many illegal immigrants are in the UK?

Migration statistics are notoriously hard to calculate - so how do we work our the figures for illegal immigrants in Britain?  

How many illegal immigrants are in Britain? It's a hot political question, and one of the reasons why is that the total is so hard to calculate.

Here's what we know. The Office for National Statistics puts the estimated net migration to the UK for the year ending June 2016 at 650,000. Whilst immigration from the EU was highest on record, immigration from non-EU countries was largely similar to the previous years. However, that doesn't tell us much about illegal immigration.

Can we even calculate the number of illegal immigrants?

There’s a difficulty in working out the number of illegal immigrants in the UK for obvious reasons. They exist largely as an unregistered collective, and if there was some way to universally register them, well, they’d all get deported. The Office for National Statistics does not collect estimates on the number of illegal immigrants, stating in response to a FOI request last year that “[b]y its very nature it is impossible to quantify accurately the number of people who are in the country illegally.” Although the ONS could use the Annual Population Survey or the Census, these methods would leave large holes considering the  ‘hidden’ population of illegal immigrants. Although GPs, landlords, schools and charities are increasingly expected to monitor immigration, there are still no hard figures.

What estimates have been made?

The most recent number comes from 2005. That year, the Government assessed methods other countries used to estimate their level of illegal immigration, and applied those techniques to the UK. Creating an estimate for 2001, they predicted the number at 430,000. In 2007, the London School of Economics produced a report estimating the number of ‘irregular’ migrants at 533,000. 

The government does, however, collect “Immigration Enforcement Data”  including information such as number of visits based on tip-offs, number of people refused entry and number of offenders deported. For example, the number of enforcement visit arrests from information in Q2 of 2016 was 941. The The Migration Observatory at the University of Oxford put the number of deported immigrants at 40,896 in 2015, but it also does not make an estimation of number of ‘irregular’ immigrants. The Observatory states that "irregular migration is by definition not recorded and eludes statistical coverage" and told the New Statesman that its inability to produce more up-to-date reports is due to there being “no useful data at all about this subject.” The Observatory concluded, “working out who is breaking the rules and who isn’t involves knowing what all [people who enter the UK] are doing, which isn’t recorded in a systematic way.”

What is the government doing?

Leaving the EU, mainly. Theresa May, during her time as Home Secretary was harsh on immigration, deporting 48,000 international students at one point due to suspicion over a fraudulent English language test which later proved to be legal. There are ample controversial initiatives that exist, such as Prevent and legislation making it illegal for landlords to rent properties to illegal immigrants. 

Right now, the sheer difficulty at estimating the number of illegal immigrants gives ample opportunity for fake news. From the Daily Mail to ‘Migration Watch’ (a suspiciously defensive anti-immigration website), concerns about illegal immigrants are often more influenced by ideology than evidence.

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Casting the Brexit movie that is definitely real and will totally happen

Details are yet unclear as to whether The Bad Boys of Brexit will be gracing our screens, or just Farage's vivid imagination.

Hollywood is planning to take on the farcical antics of Nigel Farage et al during the UK referendum, according to rumours (some suspect planted by a starstruck Brexiteer). 

Details are yet unclear as to whether The Bad Boys of Brexit will be gracing our big or small screens, a DVD, or just Farage's vivid imagination, but either way here are our picks for casting the Hollywood adaptation.

Nigel Farage: Jim Carrey

The 2018 return of Alan Partridge as "the voice of hard Brexit" makes Steve Coogan the obvious choice. Yet Carrey's portrayal of the laughable yet pure evil Count Olaf in A Series of Unfortunate Events makes him a serious contender for this role. 

Boris Johnson: Gerard Depardieu

Stick a blonde wig on him and the French acting royalty is almost the spitting image of our own European aristocrat. He has also evidently already mastered the look of pure shock necessary for the final scene of the movie - in which the Leave campaign is victorious.

Arron Banks: Ricky Gervais

Ricky Gervais not only resembles Ukip donor Arron Banks, but has a signature shifty face perfect for the scene where the other Brexiteers ask him what is the actual plan. 

Gerry Gunster: Anthony Lapaglia

The Bad Boys of Brexit will reportedly be told from the perspective of the US strategist turned Brexit referendum expert Gerry Gunster. Thanks to recurring roles in both the comedy stalwart Frasier, and the US crime drama Without a Trace, Anthony Lapaglia is versatile enough to do funny as well as serious, a perfect mix for a story that lurches from tragedy to farce. Also, they have the same cunning eyes.

Douglas Carswell: Mark Gatiss

The resemblance is uncanny.

David Cameron: Andrew Scott

Andrew Scott is widely known for his portrayal of Moriarty in Sherlock, where he indulges in elaborate, but nationally destructive strategy games. The actor also excels in a look of misplaced confidence that David Cameron wore all the way up to the referendum. Not to mention, his forehead is just as shiny. He'll have to drink a lot of Bollinger to gain that Cameron-esque puppy fat though. 

Kate Hoey: Judi Dench

Although this casting would ruin the image of the much beloved national treasure that is Judi Dench, if anyone can pull off being the face of Labour Leave, the incredible actress can.