The number of Eastern European migrants seeking work in
The latest figures took the number of so-called A8 nationals – largely Poles – approved under the worker registration scheme to 854,000.
But applications between April and June this year were lower than at any time since the accession, as Eastern European immigration levels fell.
There has also been a year-on-year decline in the registration of those entering the UK from Bulgaria and Romania – the A2 countries who acceded in January 2007. It emerged separately today that the population of the UK grew by nearly two million between 2001 and 2007.
The Office of National Statistics said the number of people in Britain reached 60,975,000 by the middle of last year, up 388,000 on mid-2006. Home Office figures also revealed that deportations failed to keep up with the number of newly-failed asylum seekers last year.
Including dependants, some 16,800 people were classed as failed asylum seekers in 2007. But only 13,705 were removed or left the UK voluntarily during the course of the year – down 25% from 18,280 in 2006.
However, the number of removals unrelated to asylum cases has increased.
In total, 32,230 people – including 2,500 foreign prisoners – were removed in the first half of 2008, up 6% on the same period last year.
Overall asylum applications fell to 5,720 in the second quarter of this year, down from 6,595 in the first three months of 2008.
Immigration Minister Liam Byrne said: "Britain’s borders are stronger than ever with asylum applications at an historic low and an immigration offender removed every eight minutes. "Foreign lawbreakers are being removed from Britain at record levels with more than 2,500 deported so far this year.
"I have made it repeatedly clear that people who come here must earn the right to stay, work hard and play by the rules."
Sir Andrew Green, chairman of Migrationwatch UK, said: "The fall in registrations from eastern Eastern Europe is welcome news for our hard pressed public services but other government statistics publishes today show that immigration as a whole continues on a rising trend. "Net immigration reached nearly 200,000 in the year to mid-2007."
Jill Rutter, senior research fellow of centre-left think tank the Institute of Public Policy Research (IPPR), said: "It seems that the immigration tide is turning. Just because we have had high immigration over the last 10 years doesn’t mean the next 10 years will be the same. "As fewer Eastern Europeans arrive, asylum numbers fall and there is reduced demand for migrant workers, we would expect the nature of migration flows to change.
"The challenge in the next few years will be to attract enough migrant workers with the right skills who can drive economic growth in the UK."
The 40,000 worker applications from A8 nationals was down from 54,000 in the same three-month period last year.
There were 7,005 applications for worker cards and registration from Bulgarians and Romanians in the second quarter of 2008, down from 10,860 between April and June last year. In total, 4,200 foreign prisoners were removed last year and the Home Office said it was on track to hit its 5,000 target in 2008.
Figures from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) showed that population growth had accelerated to 0.5% a year since 2001 from 0.3% over the previous decade.
The 60,975,000 population in 2007 was up from 59,113,000 in 2006. Net migration into the UK accounted for 52% of the increase in the 12 months to mid-2007, the ONS said.
Other factors were an increase in the number of births, from 674,000 in 2000/1 to 758,000 in 2006/7, and people living longer.
There were only 571,000 deaths in 2007, compared with 599,000 in 2001. In 2006/7, emigration reached 406,000, the highest recorded total since 1991. But long-term immigration was even greater, at 605,000 – also the highest on record. That meant net immigration was 198,000, up from 187,000 in 2001.
Statistics show that the number of babies with foreign-born mothers has almost doubled over the last decade, from 84,497 in 1997 to 160,340 in 2007 – 23% of all 689,771 live births in England and Wales.
In some cities, more than half of babies had mothers born overseas. They included London (54%), Slough (56%) and Luton (51%). In Leicester the figure was 44%.
In Newham, an east London borough, it was 75%.
The total number of children born in the UK has increased from 643,095 in 1997 to 690,013 in 2007.
The UK Independence Party (UKIP) said the immigration figures undermined Gordon Brown’s commitment to British jobs for British workers.
UKIP MEP Godfrey Bloom called for "proper" border controls.
"People from Eastern Europe don’t have to register with the Government when they enter the country for at least three months during which time they can disappear." he said. "There is still an increase of at least 40,000 people in three months when unemployment is spiralling upwards belies the Prime Minister’s promise of ‘British jobs for British workers’."