Half a million foreigners came to live and work in Britain last year as immigration hit new records, official figures showed.
Nearly a quarter of a million said they came for jobs and more than 150,000 more arrived as students.
At the same time, an unprecedented total of more than 200,000 Britons left to live abroad.
The breakdown from the Government’s Office for National Statistics shows that the number of foreigners coming to live in Britain went up by nearly ten per cent in a year.
Fewer than one in five were from Eastern European countries. They were outnumbered by migrants from Commonwealth countries in the Indian sub-continent and Africa.
Most new arrivals were heading for London and the South East.
The unprecedented wave of foreign citizens came as a record number of British people joined the exodus for new lives elsewhere. For the first time ever, more than 200,000 British citizens left the country in a single year. Some 207,000 turned their backs on the UK, more than half the total of 400,000 people heading overseas.
Most of the Britons went to Australia, New Zealand, France, Spain or the U.S.
The 2006 immigration figures came with the ONS under continuing attack for the accuracy of its count. They were taken from a survey at ports and airports that involves interviews with only a few thousand people.
The scale of the influx is a further blow to Gordon Brown’s promise of “British jobs for British workers.”
Opposition politicians and critics of large-scale migration said the Government had failed to get a grip on the borders and ignored the impact on schools, housing, health and neighbourhoods.
Including returning Britons, 591,000 people came to live in this country last year. The figure for net immigration—the number who arrived minus the number who left—showed the population swelling by 191,000. Overall, there was a gain of 316,000 foreign citizens and a loss of 126,000 Britons.
Sir Andrew Green, chairman of the Migrationwatch think-tank, said: “Two-thirds of yet another record level of arrivals come from outside the EU and could and should be subject to much tighter controls.
“This gives the lie to claims that nothing effective can be done about immigration because of our membership of the EU. It also confirms the Government’s latest population projections of an extra ten million people in the next 25 years.”
Sir Simon Milton, head of the town hall umbrella body the Local Government Association, said: ‘No one has a real grasp of where or for how long migrants are settling, so much-needed funding for local services isn’t getting to the right places.
“The speed and scale of migration, combined with the shortcomings of official population figures, is placing pressure on funding for services like children’s services and housing.”
Tory spokesman Damian Green said: “Immigration is still running at unsustainably high levels. This is the direct result of the Government’s ‘open door’ approach which has totally failed to consider the impact on public services, housing and community cohesion.”