Poles Biggest Group As Net Migration Rises

Poles biggest group as net migration rises

By Kylie MacLellan
Wed Nov 19, 2008 1:09pm GMT

LONDON (Reuters) – Net migration to Britain rose by nearly 50,000 people last year, figures released on Wednesday showed, with Poles the biggest incoming group.

The Office of National Statistics said the number of people emigrating from the UK for 12 months or more fell to 340,000 in 2007, down 60,000 from the previous year.

The number of immigrants arriving also fell, by 14,000, but at 577,000 it remained significantly higher than the number of people leaving the country. Net migration was 237,000, up 46,000 from 2006.

The Conservatives said the figures showed the government had lost control over the last 10 years. They say the UK needs a dedicated border police force and an annual limit on non-EU immigration.

Immigration was led by Polish citizens, with 96,000 arriving in the UK in 2007 — the highest inflow of any individual citizenship.

The figures showed more than half of immigrants came to Britain because of a definite job or formal study, but 71,000 came looking for work.

Immigration Minister Phil Woolas, who last month said the government planned to reduce immigration in the face of a weakening economy and rising unemployment, said he was pleased with the trend shown by the figures.

“People worried about the increase in population I think can be reassured when you look into these figures,” he told the BBC, saying that although net migration had increased, it was a result of falling emigration rather than rising immigration.

Woolas has said the government will not allow the UK's population, which last year was 61 million, to rise above 70 million.

The government recently adopted a system under which would-be migrants are awarded points depending on their value to the British economy, designed to encourage skilled immigrants and reduce the number of unskilled economic migrants.

“These figures are from 2007, which is before the new points-based system has come in of course … With the points-based system, we can control the increase and that means that the figure of 70 million will become fantasy,” Woolas said.

Shadow Home Secretary Dominic Grieve said: “Immigration can be of real benefit to the country but only if it is properly controlled. These figures betray a government that has completely lost control over the last 10 years.”

(Editing by Steve Addison)