Is Britain Europe's 'migrant magnet'?

7 February 2013


"Britain has become the biggest magnet for migrants in Europe, EU officials revealed yesterday. The highest total recorded — 590,950 — came to live here in 2010, their figures showed. This intake was more than twice the 251,159 migrants who opted to go to France."

The Daily Mail, 7 February 2013


Several of today's papers featured new figures which claim to show that the UK attracts more migrants to its shores than any other country in the EU, including the Daily Mail, where the story made the front page.

The figures under the microscope were published by Eurostat - the European Union's official statistics body - and they do indeed show that more migrants moved to Britain than other EU states.

But what do these numbers tell us about how the UK's position as 'Europe's migrant magnet' has developed over the years, and how it compares to immigration and emigration in other countries in Europe?

Traditionally, it looks like Germany and Spain have had higher immigration numbers, but 2007 and 2008 saw something of a step-change in Europe's migration flows. Compared to other countries, the UK has seen a steady rise in migration. In 2010 it had the highest number of immigrants in Europe. 


However as we've shown before, immigration is only half the story. So what happens when we factor emigration into the equation?


This graph sheds light on Germany's consistently high emigration figures. Again however something changed in 2007 and 2008, after the financial crisis and subsequent recession hit. We can also see that as well as seeing rising immigration, the UK has seen a steady growth in its emigrating population.  

Putting the two together and looking at the data on net migration, we can see that the UK isn't quite yet at the top of the EU league, with Italy is seeing a greater addition to its population every year.



So while it is true that Britain attracted the greatest number of migrants in 2010 we can see from a closer reading of the data that this is a relatively new phenomenon, and that when we look at net migration, Britain still places second behind Italy.


Flickr image courtesy of mckibillo

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