Home Secretary Theresa May has reiterated that the Conservative Party is committed to reducing net immigration to below 100,000 - despite figures that revealed last week that has risen dramatically in recent years.
In an interview with the Times, Ms May insisted that the Tories are "committed" to reaching the goal first set in 2011, a year after the party came to power.
Her pledge comes days after the Office of National Statistics revealed that net migration rose to 298,000 in 2014, a rise of nearly 50,000, fuelled by a tide of migrants from Eastern Europe.
She told the Times: “(The target) has been missed, but I think it was absolutely right and the ambition is obviously the right one to have. I think we will keep the target. It is important because it is about not just dealing with those coming into the system but also about making sure that those people who shouldn’t live here actually leave.”
The Home Secretary added that the net migration target would re-appear in the Conservatives' election manifesto.
Unsurprisingly, Mrs May's comments came under fire from Labour party politicians.
Shadow Home Secretary Yvette Cooper said: “Who is Theresa May kidding? Even her own colleagues are saying her net migration target is in tatters. No one will believe a word she or the prime minister says on this after they promised ‘no ifs no buts’ to meet their chosen target last time, yet instead, net migration is three times the level they promised.
“Theresa May is taking people for fools by trying the same trick again. This massive gap between Tory rhetoric and reality just undermines trust in the immigration system.”
Mrs May's promise to make the net migration target a major issue in the run up to the election appears to be at odds with several senior Tories, including British Pakistani peer Baroness Warsi, who described the target as "unrealistic".
The Home Secretary has also suggested that she would propose the reintroduction of a "security bond" for visitors from countries deemed to be "high risk" and which include India, Pakistan, Bangladesh and a number of African states.
An earlier Conservative proposal to introduce the £3000 bond was defeated by the Liberal Democrats in 2013.BLOG COMMENTS POWERED BY DISQUS