The number of Eastern European workers returning home is now nearly as large as the numbers arriving for the first time since the EU expansion in 2004.
Asylum and Immigration figures released by the Home Office this week show that last year the total number of ‘A8’ citizens coming to Britain from the former Eastern Bloc states dropped by more than a quarter from 109,000 to 79,000.
At the same time the number returning to their homelands more than doubled, from 25,000 to 66,000.
The trend, which follows a combination of a tightening of low skilled jobs, a falling pound and booming economies back home, helped drive down net immigration to 118,000, a drop of 44 per cent and the lowest since the EU headed east.
Karen Dunnell, the Government’s chief statistician, said the figures were likely to be due to the economic downturn.
She said: ‘You have to say that probably unemployment and the economic situation, given that quite a lot from the A8 countries are coming to work, is probably having an impact.’
An estimated one million people have flocked to the UK since Poland, Hungary, the Czech Republic, Latvia, Lithuania, Estonia, Slovakia and Slovenia joined the EU in 2004.
The Government faced severe criticism at the time for opting to give all new EU citizens free access to UK labour markets, while other major countries such as Germany, France, Italy and Spain imposed strict curbs.
Migrant workers from Eastern Europe have always been more transient than their Asian or African counterparts.
For this reason the Government should continue keep the door open to non EU skilled migrant workers to keep the UK economy moving.
Whilst the catering and building industries have attracted large numbers of Polish and other Eastern European workers, the care sector still struggles to attract and retain EU and resident staff.
Care homes still depend heavily on Filipino, Indian and African workers, many on student visas, to look after the sick and elderly.
Related article: Immigration and asylum statistics released by Home Office
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