David Cameron has promised to bring net migration down from the “hundreds of thousands to the tens of thousands” by 2015 to ease public concerns over numbers coming to Britain.
But new measures to achieve that are unlikely to have any significant impact during 2011, according to a report by the Institute for Public Policy Research (ippr).
It warns EU citizens, whose movement the Government cannot control, could arrive in Britain in increasingly large numbers to look for jobs, with Irish people expected to be among the biggest arrivals.
Measures against others immigrant groups, such as foreign students, will also take time to have an impact.
As a result, it concludes there is little chance that net migration, the difference between those arriving and those leaving, will drop much below 200,000 over the next 12 months.
Figures last month showed next migration was 215,000 in last year meaning levels had actually risen not fallen.
The Government has announced a cap of 21,700 for non-EU workers during 2011 and is consulting on plans that will slash the number of foreign students by up to 100,000 a year.
But the ippr study warns a series of factors mean will severely attempts to bring the inflow down.
It said if the UK economy continues to perform better than some Eurozone countries such as Ireland, Spain, Portugal and Greece, then EU workers could head here to look for work.
It has already been predicted that some 120,000 Irish nationals could leave home and the UK would be the preferred destination for many.
Similarly, despite a recent drop in the number of Eastern Europeans coming to the country, the number of Lithuanians and Latvians arriving has increased by 25 per cent in the last year and could continue, the report said.
The cap on migrant workers will also only have a small impact on overall immigration flows while the measures to cut student numbers are unlikely to take full effect during 2011.
The report said the Government was a “long way” from its overall objective, adding: “Reducing net migration by more than half would be a challenging task for any government, at any time, but it is made harder in the UK by the fact that government has no (or limited) control over some major immigration flows.”
It concluded: “Despite the government’s efforts, net immigration to the UK looks unlikely to fall significantly in 2011.
“If the UK economy continues to recover, we might even expect to see increases in some forms of immigration for work, despite the cap.”
It also warned that a failure to meet the target could leave lasting damage in the minds of the public.
“As Labour found, once a reputation for competence on migration is lost, it is very hard to regain. 2011 may see the Coalition government learnt his lesson the hard way,” it said.
Nick Pearce, ippr director, said: “ippr analysis suggests a sharp drop in immigration is unlikely to happen in 2011 on current trends, so ministers must be careful to manage down public expectations.
“The cap on skilled migration from outside the EU, which the government has already been put in place, could hurt the economic recovery. Other hasty measures to reduce numbers artificially would be even more damaging.
“Bringing down the level of immigration, which has been high in recent years, is a legitimate policy goal. But this should be done by making long term and sustainable reforms to the structure of our economy and labour market.”