Page last updated at 13:04 GMT, Thursday, 15 November 2007

Record trends in UK migration

By Dominic Casciani
BBC News

The statistics show record migration figures in to and out of the UK

Latest annual migration statistics show record levels of people leaving the UK - and records numbers arriving.

Figures from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) suggest 591,000 people migrated to the UK in 2006 while some 400,000 people moved overseas.

Because so many people emigrated the rate of population growth has been the lowest for three years.

Just over half of those leaving were British, according to the annual report on long-term migration trends.

The figures published annually by the ONS show the pattern of long-term massive movements of people in and out of the UK appear to be continuing.

On emigration, the ONS said 41,000 more people had left the UK in 2006 than in the previous year.

An estimated 400,000 people left the UK for a year or more - up from 359,000 in 2005
This is the highest figure since the estimates began in 1991
Of those, just over half - 207,000 - were British citizens
Some 591,000 people arrived in the UK to live for a year or more. The previous highest was 586,000 in 2004
Net immigration was 191,000, some 53,000 lower than the record estimate of 244,000 in 2004
There were 316,000 more non-British citizens and 126,000 fewer British citizens in the UK

Of those, 185,000 were British. Some 15,000 of those leaving the UK after living here for at least one year were people from the eight Eastern European nations to have joined the EU in 2004.

However, immigration flows also continued to break records. Some 591,000 people from around the world came to live in the UK for at least a year in 2006 - up from 563,000 in 2005.

Just over 80,000 of these were people were British citizens who had been living abroad. Of the remaining, 167,000 were from inside the European Union, and 201,000 from Commonwealth nations.

The ONS figures, based on estimates, suggest that overall 191,000 more people came to live in the UK than left in 2006 - down from 204,000 in 2005 and 244,000 in 2004.

The most popular destinations for the British citizens who were leaving were Australia and New Zealand, Spain, France and the US.

Council fears

Local Government Association chairman Sir Simon Milton said the official statistics were "inadequate" and were adding to difficulties for councils.

"No-one has a real grasp of where or for how long migrants are settling, so much-needed funding for local services isn't getting to the right places," he said.

"The speed and scale of migration combined with the shortcomings of official population figures is placing pressure on funding for services like children's services and housing. This can even lead to unnecessary tension and conflict."

Sir Andrew Green, chairman of Migrationwatch UK, said the detailed revealed the UK had to restrict migration from outside of the European Union.

"These latest figures show that two thirds of yet another record level of arrivals come from outside the EU and therefore could and should be subject to much tighter controls," he said.

"This gives the lie to claims that nothing effective can be done about immigration because of our membership of the EU. The figures also confirm the government's latest population projections for the UK of an extra 10 million people in the next 25 years."

'Economic phenemonon'

But Danny Sriskandarajah of the Institute for Public Policy Research said the data demonstrated "turnstiles not floodgates" in a globalised world.

"More people are on the move than ever before with a million emigrants and immigrants crossing our borders last year," said Dr Sriskandarajah.

"But we've probably seen the crest of the latest immigration wave, with the overall impact of immigration on population growth dropping.

"It is also clear that immigration is an economic phenemonon with almost half of those immigrating and emigrating doing so for work-related reasons. This mobility will be increasingly important for the UK's long-term economic prospects."

Communities Secretary Hazel Blears said she recognised the effects of migration could present challenges for public services.

"We continue to work with local government on the best way to manage them," she said.

"While the independent ONS data is not perfect, it is the best data currently available that treat all authorities on a consistent basis."

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