Overall migration levels (the numbers of people arriving minus those leaving Britain) have fallen by 44 per cent to 118,000, according to the latest report from the Office for National Statistics (ONS).
This is the lowest level since European enlargement and reflects the fact that migration is cyclical.
The ONS said that there were 408,000 more people living in the UK in 2008, taking the population to 61.4 million.
This latest increase in population is the biggest in nearly 50 years, but experts point out that the birth rate nationally and globally is in decline – and that the world’s biggest problems, socially and ecologically, are to do with consumption.
The recent increase in the British population is due to changes in birth and death rates, particularly greater life expectancy, rather than immigration. This has thrown the anti-migrant lobby into some confusion.
The Daily Mail and the Daily Express tabloid newspapers nevertheless continued their relentless campaign against migrants this morning, with identical headlines proclaiming an “immigrant baby boom” based on selective figures which have little bearing on the overall situation.
Indeed, Britain will continue to be economically reliant upon migrants over the next ten years.
Social justice campaigners argue that fair wages and a regulated amnesty for non-registered long-term migrants are urgent priorities.
Tim Finch from the Institute for Public Policy Research said migration goes in cycles.
“It is now declining sharply,” he commented. “This is almost certainly because of a combination of the economic downturn, the short term nature of much migration from new EU countries and the impact of stronger controls put in place by the government.
Finch added: “There has been a lot of irresponsible scaremongering about immigration in recent years which was based on the false assumption that high migration was inevitable for years to come.”
There are now 1.3 million people aged over 85, a record number, who make up 2 per cent of the total population. There were 791,000 babies born in the UK last year, an increase of 33,000 on 2007. The population is now growing by 0.7 per cent each year.