Over the years the United Kingdom has become a popular expat destination, especially for those from developing nations. At present there is one immigrant for every seven people born in the UK. That equates to just shy of eight million foreign nationals now living within the British Isles. The UK has truly become an ethnic melting pot to rival any other on earth.
Now, however, figures from the Office of National Statistics have revealed the changing ethnic face of Great Britain. No longer just the preserve of those from Jamaica and South East Asia it is now Eastern Europeans that represent the largest non-native groups living in the UK.
Historically many of the expats arriving in the UK were from former British colonies such as Jamaica and India – where some crossover of language and culture made integration easier. However the latest findings suggest that this may all be changing – with Britain becoming a magnet for visitors from Europe.
The figures released by the ONS show the population of Britain based on their country of origin. The latest figures show that the foremost group in the UK are immigrants from India, totalling an estimated 760,000 individuals. That said, there has long been a strong population of Indians in the UK (and vice versa).
Perhaps more surprising is the second most-prevalent group of immigrants; namely those from Poland. The Polish population in the UK now numbers an estimated 688,000 individuals. It is therefore not outside the borders of reason that Poland could become the number one country sending expats to the UK in the coming years.
What makes this explosion in Polish residents even more surprising is just how quickly this increase has occurred. Back in the early 1990’s the Polish population in the UK measured no more than 100,000 individuals. However when Poland was accepted into the EU – granting Polish workers access to the UK job market – the number of Poles on Britain rose dramatically.
In essence there has been a net immigration of over half a million Poles in the last twenty five years.
Pakistan makes up the third largest non-native group residing in the UK, though the Pakistani population lags some way behind the Poles with an estimated population of “just” 516,000.
While there may now be so many Poles living in the UK as to make the “Polish builder” something of a British cliché, other Eastern European nations are nowhere near as well represented. Lithuanians, for example, rank a mere 14th with a population of just 144,000.
There are also estimated to be 136,000 Romanians and 82,000 Latvians currently living in the UK.
Of course not everyone stays in the UK. While the United Kingdom welcomed 582,600 migrants last year, it also saw 322,900 people leave to live abroad.