Immigrants make up half of population growth

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The Independent Online

Immigrants accounted for more than half of Britain's population growth in recent years, according to a study revealing for the first time the full extent of the communities settling in the UK.

People entering Britain from outside Europe and the Commonwealth now outstrip other migrants, according to research giving a unique picture of communities settling in Britain.

The study published yesterday shows that immigrants represented more than half of the growth in population during the decade between 1991 and 2001.

The figures, based on the 1991 and 2001 censuses, showed immigrant communities made up 7.5 per cent of the population.

Researchers from the Institute of Public Policy Research, the left-leaning think-tank, and Sheffield University analysed details of people living in Britain but who were born abroad. They said the study showed the increasing diversity of "rainbow Britain" while campaigners on behalf of migrants argued that it exploded the myth that immigrants were a drain on the economy.

The research showed that the largest groups came from India and Pakistan, followed by those from Germany, because of the large British Army presence there, the Caribbean and the United States.

But they found major increases in immigration from countries with less tradition of migration to Britain, reporting rises in the numbers coming from countries such as the former Yugoslavia, Sierra Leone, South Africa, China and Sweden.

Research showed people born abroad comprised one in four Londoners and were in the majority in the north-west London suburb of Wembley. But researchers also noted significant increases in immigrant communities living outside the South-east as communities from abroad spread across the UK.

The report highlighted the huge divide between different groups of people entering Britain. It said many groups entering Britain produced a large proportion of people in top pay brackets, earning at least £750 a week, while others suffered high levels of unemployment. Nearly 20 per cent of people born in India, for example, were classified as high earners, scoring above people from Belgium, Canada and France. Thirteen per cent of Nigerians were classed as high earners, above people from Hong Kong or Malaysia.

By contrast, fewer than half of new immigrants from Bangla-desh were in work, and fewer than 2 per cent were classed as high earners.

Simon Hughes, the Liberal Democrat president, said: "These figures give the lie to the simple prejudices and easy generalisations which lead to views which assume that white immigrants succeed and black or brown immigrants do not."

David Davis, the shadow Home Secretary, said the immigration system was a "shambles". He said: "While a certain amount of immigration may help the economy, it must be controlled. Sadly, in Britain, Labour have lost control of the immigration system, which has descended into a complete and utter shambles."

Sir Andrew Green, chairman of the think-tank Migrationwatch UK, said: "It is impossible to achieve satisfactory integration when foreign immigration is approaching a quarter of a million a year." The Home Office dismissed Sir Andrew's comments as "tired old nonsense", adding that the country needed immigration for economic success.

London suburb where the majority were born abroad

The north-west London suburb of Wembley, considered a heartland for one of the most vibrant British Indian communities, is the first area in Britain where the majority of the population are immigrants.

Not just synonymous with its football stadium, it is well known for its range of saris, wedding jewellery and Bollywood music shops, drawing Asians from as far afield as Leicester and Manchester.

In recent years, there has been a growth in Somali and Tamil restaurants and businesses setting up in the neighbourhood.

The number of Hindus, who make up 39 per cent of the population, far outweighs any other religion - and there are colourful scenes in the annual Holi and Diwali celebrations, when Brent Council organises a carnival-style procession with floats, fireworks and lanterns.

Wembley was not always so multicultural. Wembley Park was selected by the government for the British Empire Exhibition in 1924-25.

Hannah Phung, exhibitions officer at Grange Museum in Brent, which has documented the changing face of Wembley, said:"It used to be 'the' place to go to, and people who lived in the south of the borough would go to Wembley at special times such as Christmas, or to buy school uniforms, and it was something exciting."

After the arrival of the first Asian families in the Fifties and Sixties, the influx grew stronger as Ugandan Asians fled Idi Amin's repressive regime in the early Seventies.

Wembley's population has seen a rise in the proportion of foreign-born residents from 41 per cent in 1990 to 51.9 per cent in 2001.

Arifa Akbar