196,000 out, 574,000 in: Record numbers leaving Britain for new life abroad – as immigration to UK soars
A record number of British citizens are leaving the country, according to official figures published yesterday.
An unprecedented 196,000 left the country last year, with Australia, Spain, America, New Zealand and France the most popular destinations for those seeking a new life.
(Photo: The Dannreuther family left Hampshire in 2004 to move to Bordeaux.)
The exodus is countered by high levels of immigration, with the Office for National Statistics saying that 574,000 people came to live in Britain between June 2005 and 2006.
Overall, the population has risen by 349,000 to more than 60 million. The news came as it was revealed that hundreds of thousands of asylum seekers will be granted an 'amnesty' to live in Britain on human rights grounds.
Many have been waiting years to have their cases processed, meaning deporting them now would breach their right to a family life.
The ONS figures also showed the numbers arriving from Eastern Europe are still close to the boom levels seen after eight countries including Poland joined the European Union in the spring of 2004.
(Photo: Asylum seekers in Bosnia ready to make an overland journey to Britain.)
The new figures also suggested that middle-class Britons are beginning to move out of towns in southern England that are home to large numbers of immigrants.
This phenomenon – called 'churn' by Whitehall officials and 'middleclass flight' by other commentators – saw 240,000 people move out of London last year.
Independent experts said the high emigration figures showed that many Britons are fed up with life here and believe they will do better elsewhere.
Liam Clifford, of consultancy firm globalvisas.com, said his company had 50,000 inquiries from would-be emigrants last month alone.
“They do not believe that the services and the system can cope with the number of people coming into the UK at the moment,” he said.
“Even fairly rural areas and villages seem to be coming under the threat of having an increased population and lack of services.”
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(Photo: Relocating to Spain: John and Sally Holmes, pictured with their daughter Poppy, sold their home in Sussex and moved to Marbella)
Dean Morgan, of the workpermit.com website, added: “Normally in July and August it is quite quiet but this year we have been inundated.
“People are worried about their children and they worry about their jobs and their future here and possibly the economy as well.
“Perception of crime is another of the main reasons for people wanting to leave.”
A study by the Institute for Public Policy Research think-tank earlier this year said there are now 1.3 million British emigrants living in Australia.
Another 761,000 live in Spain, and 678,000 in the United States.
The ONS yesterday estimated that last year's emigration figures were the highest since 1991, when modern counting methods were adopted.
A total of 385,000 people are thought to have left the country, although this figure includes many foreigners who were in Britain temporarily.
Current levels are far above those in previous high emigration periods such as the 1970s and early 1980s.
The 574,000 who came into Britain last year included many types of people, some of them successful applicants from highly-skilled migrant programmes. Another 91,000 were Britons who had lived abroad coming home.
It also included 74,000 who came from Eastern Europe, the ONS said. This brings the official estimate of migration from the new EU countries since the middle of 2004 to 151,000.
However, ministers admit that in reality more than 600,000 have come over here. Sir Andrew Green of Migrationwatch said that the ONS calculated that only 57,000 of the recent Eastern European arrivals had stayed in Britain.
But 210,000 signed the Government's register to work in Britain over the period.
He added: “This once again highlights that the Government has no real grip of immigration or any meaningful idea of the true number coming to and leaving the UK which makes planning for these large population increases extremely difficult.”
ONS officials, who continue to base immigration estimates on a largely-discredited survey taken at ports of entry, said compiling the figures was becoming “difficult” and “challenging”.
The figures include asylum seekers but do not count, and make no estimate of, the levels of illegal immigration.
MIDDLE CLASS QUIT CITIES The middle class are increasingly moving out of towns and cities in southern England in a phenomenon known in Whitehall as 'churn'.
The relocation to suburbs and rural areas is similar to the 'white flight' that emptied American cities in the 1960s.
However, the exodus here includes successful ethnic minority families anxious to escape the growing tensions of life in big towns.
GP records showed that 243,700 people left London in the 12 months to June last year.
The capital's population continues to grow because of large numbers of migrants moving in. But for the first time other southern towns are experiencing 'middle class flight'.
Since 2001 the populations of Reading and Bournemouth have dropped by one per cent despite the arrival of migrants.
The head of the ONS, Karen Dunnell, said: “We have seen a very active housing market and some people are moving out to take advantage of rising prices.”
However, experts also consider that concerns over schools, poor transport and rising crime are central factors in persuading families to move out of towns.
OUR AGEING POPULATION The fastest-growing segment of the population is the over-85s, the figures showed. A record 1,243,000 have now passed the age of 85 and the group grew by 6 per cent last year.
The number of people over retirement age is now 11,344,000 – up 1 per cent in a year.
There are concerns that Britain's ageing population will become difficult to sustain because there are fewer taxpayers to pay for older people's pensions and health care costs.
The working age population is growing, although more slowly – it was up by 0.8 per cent to 37,710,000.
At the same time the number of children under 16 dropped by 0.4 per cent to 11,537,000. Overall numbers went up by 349,000 to 60,587,000, according to the figures.
Just over half of the increase was attributed to immigration, the rest to increasing birth rates. These are rising largely because recent immigrants are having more children than the existing population.
One in four of the 734,000 babies born last year had a parent who was born abroad. This is up from one in five in 2001.
The rising number of children born to migrants compares with much lower birthrates among women whose background is wholly British.