July 13, 2011 • 3:59 pm


“More immigrants settle permanently in Britain than any other country in Europe, a study revealed yesterday.

The latest figures showed that 397,900 foreigners decided to live here in 2009 – second in the world only to the U.S.”

Daily Mail, 13th July 2011

Full Fact has looked into the way in which migration statistics are reported a number of times recently we have found problems with press reports – such as in The Guardian and The Times

So when the Daily Mail reported today that Britain is the top destination in Europe for permanent migrants and second only in the world to the United States, we decided to take a look. 


The article in the Mail claims that 397,900 people settled permanently in the UK in 2009, up 14 per cent from 2008.As explained in the article, the figures are taken from a report by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD)

The report, ‘International Migration Outlook 2011′ sets out the statistics on international migration into and out of OECD countries. The Mail correctly reported that Britain- with 397,900 settlers- ranks second to the United States where permanent settlers top 1.1 million. The figure for Britain is indeed up 14 per cent from the previous year.

Whilst the UK is at the very top end for numbers of permanent settlers in 2009, the numbers have remained fairly stable since 2003, whilst other countries have experienced a substantial decline. As such, the OECD report shows that in 2008 the UK was fourth, seeing significantly less permanent settlers than the US, Italy and Spain.

It does suggest at the top of the article that Britain is first in Europe and second in the world, although it does clarify further down that the OECD only represents developed countries.

As explained in both the OECD report and the press coverage, the increase seen in the UK is due to people who had entered in previous years changing to permanent statement. The most significant part of this group was international students. The report states that it is this, rather than a surge in new arrivals that explains the figures.

However, the statistics could still be open to mis-interpretation regarding trends in immigration. For instance the caption to the online version of the Mail article states “Immigration to Britain is increasing, with 397,000 foreigners settling here in 2009.”

The most recent set of statistics from the ONS covering Long Term International Migration show that “The provisional estimate of total long-term international immigration to the UK in the year to September 2010 was 586,000. This level has been broadly maintained since 2004.”


All of the figures which the Mail reports from the OECD report check out against the figures – including the claim that most other OECD countries have experienced a decline in the number of permanent settlers.

Since Full Fact has on a number of occasions found inaccuracies and inconsistencies in the Mail’s reporting and we hope we can look forward to more of this accurate reporting in the future. 

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