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China has displaced India as the topmost country of origin of UK migrants, says the British government’s ‘Migration Statistics Quarterly’ report.
“China is now the top country of last residence for immigrants to the UK for the first time. India moved down into second place following a statistically significant decrease in the numbers of immigrants from India to the UK, from 61,000 in 2011 to 37,000 in 2012,” said the report.
Figures released by the Office for National Statistics (ONS) in London on Thursday showed that 40,000 people came to Britain last year from China, compared to 37,000 from India – which had previously held the top rank for three consecutive years since 2009.
The rise in Chinese migrants is largely due to an increase in the number of students coming to study in UK universities.
Meanwhile, Chinese tourists are also one of the fastest growing groups of visitors to the UK – a record 179,000 in 2012, spending a total of $467 million.
British Finance Minister George Osborne said on a recent trip to Beijing that no country in the west is as open to investment from China as the United Kingdom.
Thursday’s migration report also said the number of students coming from India has dropped significantly – a nearly 24 per cent drop in study visas from 18,154 in 2011 to 13,811 in 2012.
UK’s anti-immigration rhetoric has adversely impacted its efforts to attract students from India to British universities.
India is also among the top countries of destination for people emigrating from the UK.
But there was a “statistically significant” decrease in the number of migrants leaving the UK to go to India, from 23,000 in 2011 to 17,000 in 2012.
Meanwhile, China has replaced Poland in the top five countries of next residence when compared to 2011.
Net migration, the difference between the number of people emigrating and the number of immigrants arriving in Britain, was 182,000 in year ending June 2013, an increase of 15,000.
While there has been a decrease in net migration from non-EU countries (172,000 to 140,000), a significant increase in the number of EU nationals coming to the UK for work (72,000 to 106,000) will make matters worse for the Conservative-led UK government which is already tackling public fears over growing EU migration.
Prime Minister David Cameron announced a series of tough benefits restrictions designed to deter Romanians and Bulgarians from coming to the UK when “freedom of movement” rules are lifted on those countries in January.
UK home secretary Theresa May said the “unwelcome rise” in net immigration shows that the government must act urgently to curb the number of workers arriving from poorer EU countries.
“This suggests that the economic problems faced by Eurozone countries are behind this new trend,” she said.