LONDON (AA) – Net migration numbers from EU member states to the U.K. ticked upward last year, adding fuel to campaigners' debate less than a month before the pivotal Brexit referendum.
Some 333,000 people moved to the U.K. from abroad in 2015, a rise in net migration numbers of 20,000 compared to 2014, according to figures released Thursday by the Office for National Statistics.
The office said the net migration of EU citizens in 2015 was 270,000, up from 264,000 in 2014, while the immigration of non-EU citizens fell from 287,000 in 2014 to 277,000 in 2015.
On the eve of the June 23 Brexit vote, one of the leave campaign's strongest arguments comes from migration levels into the UK from within the European Union.
Prominent leave campaigner Nigel Farage responded to the figures on Twitter.
"I don't believe these official figures and I'm sure the real numbers are much higher. We must Leave EU and control our borders," Farage wrote.
In the 2010 general election, Prime Minister David Cameon pledged to bring net migration to "tens of thousands."
“We would like to see net immigration in the tens of thousands rather than the hundreds of thousands. I don’t think that’s unrealistic," he stated ahead of the elections.
The latest figures show the highest recorded for a calendar year and much higher than Cameron's aim.
Net migration is a term used for the number of people who move to U.K long-term, meaning at least a year.