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China overtakes India in UK migration figures

world Updated: Nov 28, 2013 22:38 IST

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The majority of people migrating to Britain are now from China, displacing India as the topmost country of origin of migrants.

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 ranked No 1 for three consecutive years since 2009.

"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," the ONS said in its 'Migration Statistics Quarterly' report.

"The US has replaced Pakistan in the top five countries of last residence when compared to 2011, reflecting a statistically significant fall in inflows from Pakistan from 43,000 in 2011 to 19,000 in 2012," it added.

The rise in Chinese migrants is largely due to an increase in the number of students coming to study in UK universities, while the number of students coming from India has dropped significantly, a nearly 24% drop in study visas from 18,154 in 2011 to 13,811.

It will raise further concerns regarding the negative impact the UK's anti-immigration rhetoric is having on attracting students from India to its 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 European Union 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.