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UK to publish foreign worker data amid migration complaints

[LONDON] UK tax officials are to pass details on how many foreigners are registered to work in the country to official statisticians, after campaigners to get Britain out of the European Union said the information would show migration is far higher than thought.

Immigration is one of the central battle grounds in the run-up to the June 23 referendum on leaving the EU. Those who want Britain out of the EU say it's impossible to control who comes to the country, because of the bloc's free movement rules.

Statistics released in February put the number of people coming to the UK at 617,000 for the year to September 2015.

But that year, 828,000 foreign nationals were issued National Insurance numbers, which are needed to work legally.

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While the government says part of the difference is explained by short- term visitors, those pushing for exit say it shows that official statistics underestimate immigration.

In response to that pressure, the government said Sunday that HM Revenue and Customs has agreed to give the Office for National Statistics more details of the National Insurance numbers, to inform ONS data releases starting in May.

Andrew Tyrie, the chairman of the UK Parliament's Treasury Select Committee who requested the data in December, said it took "a good deal of persistence" to win release of the information.

"I recognize that HMRC may have encountered some difficulties," Mr Tyrie said. "So I am glad that they have found a way of resolving them."