Tuesday May 22, 2007
Although ministers are being cautious, the figures appear to explode claims by anti-immigration groups that 300,000 would "flood in" from Romania and Bulgaria in the first 20 months of EU membership.
The Home Office figures show that 10,418 Romanians and Bulgarians applied for permission to work in Britain between January and March this year, of which 7,935 were granted. The figures include 2,660 who registered as self-employed and 200 who described themselves as "self-sufficient".
About two-thirds were Romanian. The quarterly migration figures also showed that 49,000 migrants from Poland and other new EU member countries from eastern Europe arrived in the first three months of 2007 - a fall of 16,000 from the previous quarter but about the same level as the first three months of 2006.
A total of 630,000 migrants have registered to work since Poland and other east European countries joined the EU in 2004, but that number includes many who have already gone home. The figures come amid initial signs that the flow of migration from the new EU east European states may have already peaked.
Asylum figures published today also show that applications from asylum seekers have fallen to 22,750 in 2006-07. This is 10% lower than the previous financial year, with Afghans, Iranians and Chinese accounting for the highest number of applications.
The removal of failed asylum seekers slumped in the first three months of this year, falling 17% to only 3,055 as the Border and Immigration Agency was under ministerial orders to prioritise the deportation of foreign national prisoners.
In a renewed attempt to increase the rate of deportations, a further 10 countries are to be added to the existing 14-strong "white list" of countries from which it is assumed that asylum applications are unfounded and removals are fast-tracked. The list includes Sierra Leone, Kenya, Bosnia, Liberia and Malawi.
The annual citizenship bulletin, also published today, shows a 32% fall in new applications for British citizenship to 149,035, reflecting the impact of the introduction of English language and citizenship tests in November 2005.
The immigration minister Liam Byrne told the Guardian that it remained too soon to evaluate the full impact of the accession of Bulgaria and Romania to the EU. Early indications, however, were that the home secretary's policy of restricting access to the UK labour market was helping to ensure that only those who had something to offer the UK were allowed to work here.
Before Romania and Bulgaria joined the EU in January, the Migrationwatch pressure group predicted that 300,000 people from the two countries would arrive within 20 months. Today's figure of 8,000 looks closer to the estimate of 56,000 in the first year made by the Institute for Public Policy Research.