6.5 million foreign-born Britons, up 2 million

A rise of more than two million overseas-born Britons in 7 years 25 February 2009 – At the time of the 2001 census, it was estimated that 4.3 million people living in this country were born overseas.

The new ONS figures show an increase to 6.5 million, a rise of more than two million in seven years.

This is partly a reflection of the number of eastern Europeans, notably Poles, who came here as they entered the European Union and many of whom have stayed, regardless the recession, even if fewer are arriving and some have gone home. Romanians and Bulgarians make up the most recent migration flow, even if their entry as “new-Europeans” is restrictive.

The figure also includes overseas nationals on temporary work placements with their companies, many of whom return to their home country after a two or three year stint.

Even stripping these out, since 2002, around 2.8 million foreign nationals have come to this country to live and work for more than a year and about one million have left – a net addition of 1.77m foreign nationals to the population.

Across the country, the proportion of overseas-born residents is now around 10 per cent; but in London, it is closer to 30 per cent and in some parts of the capital, it is 50 per cent.

Such record levels, plus greater longevity, have caused the Government to recalculate population growth. They now think it will pass the 65 million mark in 2023 and reach 70 million by 2031, placing huge pressure on public services and pensions.

The Government maintains that its points-based immigration system will arrest this growth but many analysts doubt it will make any difference. The cross-party parliamentary balanced migration group, using the Government’s own figures, recently calculated that immigration would have fallen by about 12,000 last year if the new measures had been in place.

To hold the population to 65 million – a rise of about four million on current numbers – would require a reduction in net immigration to near zero, a migration level last seen in the early 1990s. In other words, net annual immigration would have to fall by 180,000 if the population is not to hit 70 million.

The 1991 census showed there were around three million people born overseas living in the United Kingdom. Thirty years ago, there were around two million.

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