Like many out there I wake up every morning hoping that a way, that protects life, has been found to bring peace in Ukraine. As it says in one of my young daughter’s books, “The world’s already far too full of cuts and burns and bumps”[1].

Unfortunately, the conflict continues and people from Ukraine are fleeing. On 10 March 2022, the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) estimates that just over 2.3 million people have fled Ukraine since 24 February 2022. Across the UK there has been an outpouring of public sympathy for Ukrainian people forced to flee. The Government has introduced some new visa routes for Ukrainians; and debate continues among the public, in the media and in Parliament about whether the UK is doing enough to help.

As with any crisis, lots of decisions will need to be made. Decisions by individuals, by governments and by agencies and by organisations helping to support people flee Ukraine and build new lives. Data and statistics are a key part of this decision-making process. For example, to inform local and national emergency response planning, the Office for National Statistics (ONS) has published new data about the number of Ukrainian nationals by local authority and the Home Office has published the number of people applying for these new Ukrainian visa routes.

Here at the Office for Statistics Regulation (OSR) I lead on OSR’s work on migration. At the heart of my role is ensuring that data and statistics serve the public good. What does this mean in this context? It means ensuring that the best possible data are available to inform decision-making. And it also means ensuring data are publicly available to help the public understand the impact of decisions made, for example to evaluate the impact of new visa routes for Ukrainians and the impact this has on the make-up of society in the UK.

Earlier this month, we published the first in a series of reports looking at how the Office for National Statistics (ONS) is transforming the way it measures international migration. These statistics provide estimates of how many people are flowing into and out of the country from across the world and what the impact is on the number of migrants in the UK. The previous methods, based on the International Passenger Survey (IPS), had limitations so it’s great to see new robust methods being developed in a credible way and in discussion with expert users. Our report welcomes the ambitious and collaborative approach being taken by the ONS to transform the way it measures international migration and recommends some ways ONS can build on this good work. I would like to thank all those we have engaged with us as part of this work for their openness and time. I look forward to continuing this work to ensure that the transformed migration statistics are trustworthy, high quality and support society’s needs for information.

More widely we also engage with other government bodies responsible for the production and publication of statistics and data on migration. For example, we regularly engage with the Home Office, which is responsible for publishing a wide range of statistics about migrants. We have recently written to the Home Office about the publication of data on migrants arriving in Small Boats. In our letter we welcomed the Department’s plans to regularly publish additional data about this topic.

At the OSR we want our work to have an impact. That means ensuring that data and statistics are there to inform decision-making across society, the public, private and third sectors and to help hold organisations to account. This is at the heart of what I do as a statistical regulator at the OSR and at the core of our migration work. I just hope in a small way this can have a positive impact on what is happening out there in the world today.

If you would like to feed into any of our work on migration statistics please get in touch with Siobhan Tuohy-Smith.

[1] Donaldson J & Scheffler A, 2010, Zog, Published in the UK by Alison Green Books.