The truth about immigration: Citizenships granted fall by 35,000 in a year

Contrary to claims that Britain is being 'swamped', the net number of incomers to the country has dropped sharply

Britain's immigration rate is decreasing and we are far from being "swamped", according to an official report presented to the Foreign Office last week. The new figures, obtained by
The Independent on Sunday, suggest the Government is starting to get immigration under control. They undermine gloomy warnings of "overcrowding" made by pressure groups and parties including the British National Party.

Applications for British citizenship have also shown a marked decline in recent years, as economic turmoil and government shake-ups have had an impact on the numbers attempting to settle in the UK.

The figures undermine the claims of critics such as the BNP leader Nick Griffin (below), who last week told a BBC Question Time audience that "it's time to shut the door because this country is overcrowded". Mr Griffin, ridiculed on the programme for his views on race, homosexuality and Islam, responded to criticism the following day by complaining that London – where the programme was filmed – had been "ethnically cleansed" and was "no longer British".

Despite a broadly negative response to his comments, he appeared to hit a nerve when he accused the Government and the media of failing to address the issue of people's concern about immigration. One poll taken after his appearance on Question Time found that more than one in five people would "seriously consider" voting for his party. The level of potential support YouGov recorded for the BNP was more than three times the 6.2 per cent it secured in this June's European Parliament ballot – its best-ever showing in a national election.

Concern over the issue continues to rise: in the decade up to 2004, the pollsters Mori found the percentage of adults saying immigration was the biggest issue facing Britain had risen from 5 per cent to 30 per cent.

But the new figures, compiled by the Institute for Public Policy Research (IPPR) suggest that, while immigration into the UK remains high compared with the rest of Europe, the problem is not as acute as many believe. Above all, officials point out that the rate of immigration into Britain is slowing, while the rate of emigration is rising. The number of foreign nationals entering Britain fell from 460,000 in 2006 to 441,000 in 2008, while, during the same period, the total of foreigners leaving rose from 173,000 to 237,000. The number of citizenship applications granted fell by 35,000, to 130,000, in a single year up to 2008.

"There's a lot of concern among so-called ordinary people about high levels of recent immigration," said Tim Finch, head of migration at IPPR. "But it's striking that people are keen not to articulate that as being the fault of immigrants. The perception that the Government hasn't been controlling it is what's upsetting them."

However, the increased prominence given to the race/immigration issue appears to have emboldened some people to use it as an excuse for conflict: after a general decline, racist attacks have gone up by 20,000 this year. According to Home Office reports, in 2006-07, 61,262 racist incidents were reported to the police, an increase of 3.7 per cent over the previous year, and a 28 per cent increase over the past five years. Approximately half the police forces in England and Wales reported an increase in racially and religiously motivated incidents.

Yet Mr Finch insists that the people he has interviewed are eager to point out that they are not motivated by race "or not wanting to live in a multicultural society".

He added: "It suits the far right to paint this scary picture, but that's not the case. The numbers have changed Britain, but there hasn't been a negative impact on many areas of society because of immigration."

The IoS's snapshot of people across a range of races and cultures appears to confirm this. Despite the furore over Mr Griffin and his party, Britain's experience of race relations is an overwhelmingly positive one. Every day, across Britain, people of all races interact routinely, naturally. The stories on the following pages represent the majority, rather than an unhappy minority.

Myth and reality: Sorting the facts from the fiction on immigration

Britain isn't British any more

The myth: Nick Griffin claimed that "we, the indigenous British people, will become an ethnic minority in our own country well within 60 years – and most likely sooner".

The reality: The Celtic Britons were conquered by the Romans, who were replaced by the Anglo-Saxons after they left; followed by the Vikings, the Normans, the Italians, more Germans, the Irish, Jews, Indians, West Indians...

Immigrants are responsible for violent crime

The myth: Many newspaper articles claim crime is caused by immigration. The Daily Mail said in August that one in every five killers is an immigrant. In 2008 the Daily Express quoted the chief constable of Kent, Mike Fuller, as blaming "migration surges" for a 35 per cent rise in violent crime in the county.

The reality: Over a three-year period ending in 2006-07, the Government reported 23 racially motivated homicides. In Scotland and N Ireland, attacks on new immigrants from within the EU continued to be reported at a high rate. Racist and religiously motivated offences totalled 39,643 in 2007-08, the last year for which UK statistics are available. It was 21,750 ten years ago.

Migrants are taking our jobs

The myth: "Nearly all the jobs created in the UK since 2001 have gone to immigrants – not British-born workers," claimed Sir Andrew Green, the chairman of Migration Watch.

The reality: The economic forecasters Oxford Economics said: "Migrant workers now account for 11 per cent of UK jobs. Within Europe, the UK has a lower overall migrant employment share than many developed countries, including Spain, Germany, Ireland and Sweden."

Immigrants get priority housing

The myth: "Well-meaning welfare programmes have been exploited to become nothing more than a free handout to scroungers, foreign and local," said the BNP.

The reality: A study for the Equality and Human Rights Commission in July found that 1.8 per cent of social tenants had moved to Britain within the past five years. Nearly 90 per cent were British-born.

Racist crime is on the rise

The myth: A relentless and increasing tide of racist attacks is sweeping through Britain, as the BNP and its supporters become emboldened by electoral success, according to anti-fascist campaigners.

The reality: According to Home Office reports, in 2006-07, 61,262 racist incidents were reported to the police, an increase of 3.7 per cent over the previous year. Among these, there were 42,551 racially or religiously aggravated offences, representing a 2.6 per cent increase over the previous year.

Muslims want sharia law in UK

The myth: "There are a lot of things that happen in Trafalgar Square that should not happen – the drugs, the alcohol," said the radical Muslim extremist Anjem Choudary. "Under sharia law it would be a different environment and atmosphere."

The reality: A British Muslims for Secular Democracy spokesman said: "We are proud of the heritage of this country and British heroes like Nelson and Churchill have made this country the place it is today. It reflects badly on the entire Muslim community when this group does these very aggressive activities."

London has been ethnically cleansed

The myth: BNP leader Nick Griffin argued that the Question Time audience was hostile because London had been "ethnically cleansed".

The reality: London is a cosmopolitan world city with residents from 243 different countries. Nearly 70 per cent of those are white, 60 per cent describe themselves as white British, and 70 per cent were born in the UK.

Britain faces immigration crisis

The myth: Roger Martin, chair of the think tank Optimum Population Trust, said: "Britain's population increase is out of control; we are on course for a high-density, low-quality future."

The reality: Before the recession, the number of migrants coming to Britain was roughly on a par with the number leaving Britain. The ONS immigration statistics for the year to December 2008 showed a total of 395,000 people emigrated, up 24 per cent on the year before. They included 237,000 non-Britons, many Eastern Europeans.

Money is being wasted on translation services

The myth: "Translation has been used too frequently and without thought," said the then communities secretary Ruth Kelly in 2007, and people should be encouraged to learn English.

The reality: The former head of the CRE, Trevor Phillips, said: "Translation is a way of helping people in transition to integrate into our society."

Kids don't speak English in class

The myth: According to Sir Andrew Green of Migration Watch: "There are more than 300 primary schools in which over 70 per cent of pupils have English as a second language."

The reality: Figures from the DfE in 2007 show that in inner London primary schools, 53.4 per cent spoke a dialect other than English as their main language, while in secondary schools it was 49.3.

Victoria Richards

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
News
Keith Fraser says we should give Isis sympathises free flights to join Isis (AFP)
news
Life and Style
Google celebrates the 126th anniversary of the Eiffel Tower opening its doors to the public for the first time
techGoogle celebrates Paris's iconic landmark, which opened to the public 126 years ago today
News
Cleopatra the tortoise suffers from a painful disease that causes her shell to disintegrate; her new prosthetic one has been custom-made for her using 3D printing technology
newsCleopatra had been suffering from 'pyramiding'
News
people
Arts and Entertainment
Coachella and Lollapalooza festivals have both listed the selfie stick devices as “prohibited items”
music
Sport
Nigel Owens was targeted on Twitter because of his sexuality during the Six Nations finale between England and France earlier this month
rugbyReferee Nigel Owens on coming out, and homophobic Twitter abuse
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Senior Web Designer / Front End Developer

£28000 - £32000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This fast expanding web managem...

Ashdown Group: Trainee Consultant - Surrey / South West London

£22000 per annum + pension,bonus,career progression: Ashdown Group: An establi...

Ashdown Group: Trainee Consultant - Surrey/ South West London

£22000 per annum + pension,bonus,career progression: Ashdown Group: An establi...

Ashdown Group: Recruitment Consultant / Account Manager - Surrey / SW London

£40000 per annum + realistic targets: Ashdown Group: A thriving recruitment co...

Day In a Page

No postcode? No vote

Floating voters

How living on a houseboat meant I didn't officially 'exist'
Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin

By Reason of Insanity

Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin
Power dressing is back – but no shoulderpads!

Power dressing is back

But banish all thoughts of Eighties shoulderpads
Spanish stone-age cave paintings 'under threat' after being re-opened to the public

Spanish stone-age cave paintings in Altamira 'under threat'

Caves were re-opened to the public
'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'

Vince Cable interview

'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'
Election 2015: How many of the Government's coalition agreement promises have been kept?

Promises, promises

But how many coalition agreement pledges have been kept?
The Gaza fisherman who built his own reef - and was shot dead there by an Israeli gunboat

The death of a Gaza fisherman

He built his own reef, and was fatally shot there by an Israeli gunboat
Saudi Arabia's airstrikes in Yemen are fuelling the Gulf's fire

Saudi airstrikes are fuelling the Gulf's fire

Arab intervention in Yemen risks entrenching Sunni-Shia divide and handing a victory to Isis, says Patrick Cockburn
Zayn Malik's departure from One Direction shows the perils of fame in the age of social media

The only direction Zayn could go

We wince at the anguish of One Direction's fans, but Malik's departure shows the perils of fame in the age of social media
Young Magician of the Year 2015: Meet the schoolgirl from Newcastle who has her heart set on being the competition's first female winner

Spells like teen spirit

A 16-year-old from Newcastle has set her heart on being the first female to win Young Magician of the Year. Jonathan Owen meets her
Jonathan Anderson: If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

British designer Jonathan Anderson is putting his stamp on venerable house Loewe
Number plates scheme could provide a licence to offend in the land of the free

Licence to offend in the land of the free

Cash-strapped states have hit on a way of making money out of drivers that may be in collision with the First Amendment, says Rupert Cornwell
From farm to fork: Meet the Cornish fishermen, vegetable-growers and butchers causing a stir in London's top restaurants

From farm to fork in Cornwall

One man is bringing together Cornwall's most accomplished growers, fishermen and butchers with London's best chefs to put the finest, freshest produce on the plates of some of the country’s best restaurants
Robert Parker interview: The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes

Robert Parker interview

The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes
Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

We exaggerate regional traits and turn them into jokes - and those on the receiving end are in on it too, says DJ Taylor