James Bowes unpacks the latest census and EU Settlement Scheme data to explore the diversity of the EU national population in the UK, showing that during the UK’s membership of the EU freedom of movement was a major driver of immigration to the UK of people born outside of the EU.
During the recent debate on Albanian migration to the United Kingdom, Albanian Prime Minister Edi Rama made an interesting point. 70% of Albanian immigrants to the UK were previously living not in Albania. Instead, they were living in Greece and Italy.
Albanians are far from a special case. There are roughly one million people living in the UK under EU freedom of movement rules, who were born outside of the EU.
According to the 2021 census, there are 581,027 EU nationals living in England and Wales who were born outside of the EU. This represents 15% of all EU nationals living in England and Wales. This excludes people born in the United Kingdom and EFTA. The census has not yet released the figures for Scotland and Northern Ireland.
According to the EU Settlement Scheme statistics, there are 411,570 non-European Economic Area (EEA) nationals with the right to live in the UK as family members of EU or European Free Trade Association (EFTA) nationals, although not all are necessarily still resident here. 150,280 non-EEA nationals have settled status. 298,290 have been awarded pre-settled status. 37,000 of the people with pre-settled status have since obtained settled status.
|Nationality||Number of people born outside of the EU|
|Other EU countries||123,016|
Table 1: Number of people born outside of the EU/EFTA by EU nationality
The most common EU nationalities for people born outside of the EU are Portuguese, Italian and Spanish. People with these three nationalities make up the majority of EU nationals born outside of the EU. The census haven’t released a full breakdown by nationality, but the number of Dutch nationals born outside of the EU is also likely to be significant.
Portuguese is the most common EU nationality for people born outside of the EU because Portugal grants citizenship to many people born in former colonies. Latin Americans and Filipinos living in Spain are eligible for citizenship after just two years.
Some EU member states allow people with an ancestor born in that country to claim citizenship. Countries that allow citizenship via ancestry include Italy, Ireland and Portugal. The number of Romanian nationals born outside of the EU is high because Moldovans are eligible for Romanian citizenship.
Another reason many EU nationals are born outside of the EU is secondary migration. Secondary migration is when people move as immigrants to one country, gain citizenship of that country and then move to another country. There has been a lot of secondary migration from Italy and Spain to the UK since the Euro crisis.
|Continent of birth||EU nationals||Non-EEA family members||Total|
|Europe (excluding EU/EFTA)||101,718||59,227||160,945|
|Oceania and Antarctica||7,295||3,316||10,611|
Table 2: Continent of birth of EU nationals born outside of the EU and non-EEA family members.
|Country of birth||EU nationals||Non-EEA family members||Total|
Table 3: Top twenty countries of birth of EU nationals born outside of the EU and non-EEA family members
There is a close correlation between the number of EU nationals born in a country and the nationality of non-EEA family members of EEA nationals. The numbers of EEA family members here have been slightly adjusted to avoid double counting people that have received both settled and pre-settled status.
The most common non-EU country of birth for EU nationals is India. The most common EU nationality for people born in India is Portuguese. This is because Goa, Daman and Diu were Portuguese colonies. 55,788 Portuguese nationals currently resident in the UK were born in India.
People born in Brazil and South Africa are most likely to have EU citizenship via ancestry. Italian is the most common EU citizenship for people born in Brazil, followed by Portuguese. Irish and Portuguese are the most common EU citizenships for people born in South Africa.
There has been a lot of secondary migration to the UK of Italian nationals born in Commonwealth countries. Italian is the most commonly held citizenship for EU nationals born in Pakistan, Bangladesh, Ghana and Nigeria. It is the second most common EU nationality for people born in India. There are also significant numbers of Spanish nationals born in Pakistan and Irish nationals born in Nigeria.
|Region||Settled status applications from non-EEA nationals|
|East of England||35,900|
|Yorkshire and the Humber||21,280|
Table 4: Number of settled status applications by non-EEA nationals by region
|Local Authority||Settled status applications from non-EEA nationals|
Table 5: Number of settled status applications by non-EEA nationals by top ten local authorities in London
|Local Authority||Settled status applications from non-EEA nationals|
Table 6: Number of settled status applications by non-EEA nationals by top ten local authorities outside of London
The census data doesn’t allow a full break down of how many EU nationals born outside of the EU live in each local authority. However, the EU Settled Status statistics do list the number of applications for settled status by non-EEA nationals by local authority.
Over 40% of applications for settled status by non-EEA nationals were by people living in London. Outside of London, non-EEA family members are most likely to live in diverse, multicultural areas. The one exception to this is Swindon, which has developed a large Goan community.
There are large communities of EU nationals born in India living in Leicester and Outer West London. Nearly half of all EU nationals born in Pakistan live in the North West. EU nationals born in West and Central Africa most commonly live in large urban areas, especially London, Manchester, Leeds and Birmingham. EU nationals born in Latin America, non-EU Europe and Bangladesh are most likely to live in London.
According to the 2011 census, there were 209,897 EU nationals born outside of the EU (it isn’t possible to exclude the small number of EU nationals born in EFTA member states from the 2011 data). Nearly two thirds of EU nationals born outside of the EU living in England and Wales have moved here after 2011. Many EU nationals born in South Asia, non-EU Europe, Latin America, and West and Central Africa have moved to England and Wales since 2011.
A major exception to the rule are EU nationals born in Eastern and Southern Africa (most commonly South Africa and Somalia). In 2011 this was the part of the world, outside of the EU itself, in which the largest number of EU nationals living in the UK were born. However, EU nationals born there have only made up a relatively small amount of immigration since 2011.
The United Kingdom is no longer a member of the European Union and no longer has freedom of movement. However, during the UK’s membership of the EU, freedom of movement was a major driver of immigration to the UK of people born outside of the EU.
By James Bowes, Space Management Assistant, Strategic Planning and Analytics, University of Warwick.