British migration figures help anti-EU party in polls
Britain's main anti-immigration party had a last-minute boost as voters went to the polls in European elections on Thursday, as figures showed the number of EU immigrants increased last year.
The Office for National Statistics said 201,000 European Union citizens moved to Britain in the year ending December 2013, up from 158,000 a year earlier.
There was also an overall jump in net long-term migration of 212,000, up from 177,000 the previous year. This is the difference between the number of migrants leaving and arriving in Britain.
The ONS said the rise in EU figure was "statistically significant" -- meaning that it is not likely to have happened by chance. Its figures are based on samples.
Analysts were predicting a landslide win for the UK Independence Party (UKIP) of Nigel Farage as voting began for European Parliament elections on Thursday.
The party's promise to pull Britain out of the EU and stem immigration has resonated with many Britons, who blame immigrants for taking jobs and straining public services.
UKIP pounced on the new immigration figures, saying: "If people want to get both the volume and the quality of immigration under control then it is perfectly clear they should vote UKIP today."
Prime Minister David Cameron's centre-right Conservatives had promised to reduce net migration to under 100,000 people by 2015 in their 2010 general election manifesto.
The ONS data showed 23,000 Romanians and Bulgarians came to settle in Britain last year, a jump from 9,000 a year earlier, after rules governing their entry were relaxed as part of their countries' EU accession process.
UKIP had warned that the "floodgates will open" to an influx of immigrants from the two eastern European states, while think-tank MigrationWatch had predicted that about 50,000 people a year would come.
© 2014 AFP