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Net immigration to Britain hits record high as topic of migrants climbs political agenda

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LONDON — Official figures show Britain gained almost 330,000 people through migration in the year to March 31 — the highest figure on record and a headache for the Conservative government amid a political storm about immigration.

The Office for National Statistics said Thursday that 636,000 people arrived and 307,000 left.

Immigration has climbed up the political agenda this summer as migrants from the Middle East, Africa and Asia attempt to reach Europe in unprecedented numbers. Several thousand have gathered near the French side of the Channel Tunnel, aiming to reach Britain.

Prime Minister David Cameron has said he will reduce net migration below 100,000, but critics say the goal is unachievable. Employers' group the Institute of Directors said government attempts to curb immigration were harming Britain's reputation as an open economy.

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