Immigrant population rose by 21% in just four years, official figures show
The number of immigrants living in Britain rose by a fifth in just four years, official figures show.
By Martin Beckford, Social Affairs Correspondent
Last Updated: 10:04PM GMT 26 Mar 2009
In some areas of the country the foreign-born population increased by a third after millions of Eastern Europeans earned the right to live and work here after their homelands joined the European Union.
More than 1 million people moved to the UK between 2004 and 2007, attracted by the strong economy and the easy availability of low-skilled jobs that Britons did not want to take.
But now it is feared their presence could lead to rising levels of hostility and an increase in support for far-right political groups, as the recession leads to greater competition for scarce work.
The changing make-up of Britain's population was disclosed in the latest edition of Population Trends, published by the Office for National Statistics.
Its analysis of the Annual Population Survey showed that the numbers of people living in the UK who were not born here rose by 21 per cent between 2004 and 2007, from 5.2 million to 6.3 million. This is an increase equivalent to the population of Birmingham.
Much of the increase came from residents of the “A8” countries that joined the EU in May 2004 the Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Slovakia and Slovenia.
Of these, two thirds were Polish, making Poland the third most common country of birth for immigrants living in Britain, after India and the Republic of Ireland.
Most of the new arrivals settled outside of the south of England, with the east of the country seeing a 34 per cent rise in its non-UK born population and both the north west and east midlands recording 32 per cent increases.
In London, which has long been home to immigrants from all over the world, one in three residents was born abroad by 2007. In the boroughs of Westminster and Brent, there are more foreign-born people than Britons.
Meanwhile, some areas have seen large decreases in their populations of native Britons, including Birmingham (a fall of 4 per cent), Surrey and Sheffield.
The ONS said: “The size of the non-UK born population is increasing while the UK-born population has remained mostly constant.
“This increase is in part due to the accession of the A8 countries in 2004 to the European Union, and also from the large numbers of people resident in the UK from countries such as India and Pakistan.
“Many places in the UK have seen the size of their non-UK born population increase and their UK-born population decrease.”
The ONS analysis comes just weeks after it became embroiled in a row with Phil Woolas, the Immigration Minister, over its data. He accused the independent body of “sinister” motives by highlighting figures showing that by 2008, almost one in nine British residents (6.5m) was born abroad.
He further fuelled the row yesterday when he told MPs he was “furious” at the time. Chairman of the Commons Public Administration Select Committee, Tony Wright, told Mr Woolas he had “crossed the line” by attacking the statiticians, while the National Statistician, Karen Dunnell, said it was “not helpful” for ministers to intervene in such a way.
UK Border Agency spokesperson said: “We've always said that we would run our immigration system for the benefit of the UK. We have put in place the biggest shake-up of the immigration system in over a generation including the introduction of the Points Based System. The points system means only foreign workers we need and no more can come here. Also, the number of Eastern Europeans coming here to work is dramatically falling and research suggests that many of those that came have now gone home.
“We will not tolerate anyone who wishes to abuse the system. We have one of the toughest borders in the world and we are determined to ensure it stays that way. These figures can also include British nationals born overseas and those who are here and have settled or gained citizenship.
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