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Asia migrants flock to Australia

An Asian man walks with a small child in Sydney's Chinatown district (file photo)
The 2006 census figures suggested a "major increase in Asian immigration"

Australia's Asian population is soaring as immigrants from across the region - particularly China and India - enter the country, official data suggests.

Asia is fast becoming a rival to Europe as the dominant source of arrivals, analysis of the latest census showed.

The Australian Bureau of Statistics said almost one-fifth of the new arrivals in Australia between 1996 and 2006 came from China and India.

The data also showed that 4.4 million people in Australia were born overseas.

This represented a 2% increase from the time of the last census in 1996.

Until 1973 the former British colony had a "White Australia" policy, restricting immigration to Westerners.

While migration from Europe has continued, the ABS report, entitled Portrait of a Nation, said the overseas-born population had "featured a major increase in Asian immigration".

The United Kingdom was still the most common country of origin, with 24% of foreign-born residents (92,000) arriving from there between 1996 and 2006, census data suggested.

However, six of the 10 most common birthplaces were now Asian countries with China accounting for 9.5% (62,000) of new arrivals and India with 8.4% (54,100).

Other Asian countries where migrants were coming from included Malaysia, the Philippines, South Korea.

The report said that the Asian population has now eclipsed that of indigenous Australians.

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