No major rise in Irish migrants to Britain


SOME 5,000 Irish people registered to work or access benefits in the UK in the first half of the year, suggesting there was no significant rise in the rate of emigration to Britain over that period.

Figures compiled by the UK's department for work and pensions show that 5,100 Irish citizens registered for national insurance numbers there between January and June. In 2007, a total of 10,500 Irish people did the same, indicating little shift in the pattern since last year. The annual figure had held firm in the 9,000 to 10,200 range in each of the previous four years.

The data on national insurance numbers, which holders use to pay taxes and claim benefits, gives an indication of population flows to the UK, but does not include those emigrants who may have reactivated a number they were previously allocated, or who have not yet sought a number.

Moreover, any emigration spike since July would not show up in these statistics.

Joe O'Brien, policy officer at Crosscare Migrant Project, which offers advice to intending emigrants, said the figures were nonetheless the most up-to-date indication of migration patterns to Britain, and broadly tallied with the group's own observations.

While some Irish workers were known to have moved to London in search of work, Crosscare had noticed a rise in queries from people considering moving to the United States, but not to Britain.

"I would think a lot of the people being let go at the moment are eastern Europeans, and there has been no increase among the Irish who come to us looking to go to England," he said.

"We haven't seen it, and we haven't heard the organisations in London saying it either."

Mr O'Brien added: "It's still early days. I would imagine there will be some increase [ in the numbers going to the UK] in the second half of the year, but I wouldn't be shocked if there wasn't. People are holding steady for the moment."

The British statistics show that, of those Irish citizens who claimed national insurance numbers in the first half of the year, a majority (58 per cent) were men.

They were also disproportionately young, with 44 per cent aged 18 to 24 and 43 per cent in the 25 to 34 age bracket.

A breakdown by government office region reveals that the most popular destination was London, where 40 per cent of Irish people applied for national insurance numbers. A further 11 per cent registered in Scotland, while 8 per cent registered in the southeast of England.

According to data published by the Central Statistics Office in August, the number of people emigrating from the State in the year to the end of April increased marginally to 45,300. But in light of the worsening economic situation, the Economic and Social Research Institute last month forecast net emigration of 30,000 in 2009 - compared to a net inflow of 72,000 two years ago.