LONDON, August 25, 2011 (AFP) â€“ Net migration to Britain rose by 21 percent last year, with 239,000 more people arriving in the country than leaving, according to official statistics published on Thursday.
In 2009, the figure for net migration was 198,000.
The increase last year was largely caused by a fall in the number of people leaving the country as jobs abroad were harder to find in the uncertain economic climate.
The total leaving Britain for work reasons was at its lowest for three years at 179,000.
The Conservative-Liberal Democrat government has pledged to cut net migration to the â€œtens of thousandsâ€ by 2015, but claimed last yearâ€™s figures do not reflect the â€œradicalâ€ measures it has introduced because it only took power in May 2010.
The Office for National Statistics said long-term immigration in 2010 was 575,000, a slight increase from 567,000 a year earlier.
However the estimated long-term emigration figure dropped from 371,000 in 2009 to 336,000, its lowest level for six years.
Most new entrants to Britain came to study and three-quarters of the 228,000 immigrant students last year were from countries outside the European Union.
Net migration from the eight countries who joined the EU in 2004, known as the A8 — Czech Republic, Poland, Hungary, Slovakia, Slovenia, Estonia, Latvia and Lithuaniaâ€”rose almost eight-fold last year to 39,000 from 5,000 in 2009.
One of the governmentâ€™s key new measures is to cap the number of skilled workers from outside the European Economic Area who are allowed into Britain each year.
Immigration Minister Damian Green said: â€œAfter almost two years of increasing net migration the figures stabilised in the last quarter.
â€œThis explains why the government radically changed immigration policy, from our first months in office, to drive the numbers down with a limit on economic migration and changes to student visas to ensure we attract the brightest and best whilst tackling widespread abuse of the system.â€
Dr Carlos Vargas-Silva, of Oxford Universityâ€™s Migration Observatory, said the figures made the governmentâ€™s efforts to reduce net migration â€œmore difficult than everâ€.
The sharp increase in net migration from eastern Europe â€œraises the question of whether government policies to cut net migration from outside the EU may be stimulating a demand for more EU workers,â€ he said.
â€œThe UK clearly remains an attractive destination for migrants from A8 countries.
â€œThere is a demand for their labour, wages are still much higher than Poland or other A8 nations and there are now well-established A8 communities and networks here to help new and returning EU migrants find a job and negotiate the complexities of life in a new country.â€