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Number of foreigners in UK hits record 6.7m

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The ONS estimates the UK's population will be above 70m by 2033

The number of people from overseas living in the UK reached a record high of 6.7 million last year, the Office for National Statistics has said.

In its annual overview of population figures, the ONS said 11% of people had been born abroad.

Nearly 25% of all births in England and Wales in 2008 were to foreign-born women - another record.

Immigration Minister Phil Woolas said the figures did not account for those immigrants who were returning home.

The births to foreign-born women made up 170,834 out of the total of 708,711.

Immigrants from Eastern Europe, for example, had 25,000 children.

The statistics agency also projected that the UK's population would increase by nearly 10 million in the next 25 years, a rate which is almost double that recorded in the last quarter of a century.

The ONS estimated there would be 71.6 million people living here by 2033, up from 61.4 million now.

It is difficult for anyone to accurately forecast the population now, let alone in 30 years, after Labour and the Tories abandoned exit checks
Chris Huhne, Liberal Democrats

Mr Woolas cautioned that previous attempts to estimate future populations had been wildly inaccurate.

"These population projections do not take into account the impact of future government policies or those Eastern Europeans who came here, contributed, and are now going home," he said.

"Projections are uncertain. For instance in the 1960s they said our population would reach 76 million by the year 2000. This was off target by 16 million.

"And let's be clear, the category 'foreign-born mothers' includes British people born overseas, such as children whose parents are in the Armed Forces or those who come to Britain at a very early age.

"Overall, net-migration is falling, showing that migrants come to the UK for short periods of time, work, contribute to the economy and then return home."

Liberal Democrat home affairs spokesman Chris Huhne said: "It is difficult for anyone to accurately forecast the population now, let alone in 30 years, after Labour and the Tories abandoned exit checks.

"We cannot know how many people live here if we do not count people out as well as in.

"Some parts of the country, like Scotland, need and want more population while others, like the South East, are at the limit of environmental sustainability."



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