Huge rise in number of British immigrants

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 23 November, 2004, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 23 November, 2004, 12:00am

Total for UK citizens exceeds figure for Southeast Asia for first time in 10 years

For the first time in nearly a decade, the number of British immigrants accepted by Australia has outstripped those from Southeast Asia, a report revealed yesterday.

Data released by the Immigration Department showed an extraordinary rise in the number of British migrants, with the figure more than doubling in the past four years from 9,000 to 19,000.

That compares with 16,800 settlers arriving last year from Southeast Asian nations.

In the same period, Australia accepted 8,800 settlers from the mainland and 1,125 from Hong Kong.

The number of Hong Kong visitors to Australia peaked at 4,360 in 1995-96.

The increase in British migrants drew comparisons with the 1950s and 1960s, when thousands of so-called GBP10 Poms flocked to Australia under an assisted-passage scheme.

Experts in population change said it also reflects the Anglophile leanings of Prime Minister John Howard, who has been criticised for aligning Australia too closely with the US and Britain, particularly over the Iraq war, while disengaging from Asia.

'I wouldn't say it's a conscious plot, but it's a trend the government will certainly be happy with,' said James Jupp, from the Australian National University, who has written a historical account of English settlers in Australia.

'It will blunt the anti-Asian sentiment expressed by the rise of Pauline Hanson's One Nation party in the late 1990s.'

The dramatic changes in immigration patterns have occurred in the nine years since Mr Howard's conservative coalition government was elected.

The proportion of immigrants from English-speaking countries has jumped from 37 per cent when Mr Howard first took office, to more than 50 per cent of last year's intake of 111,000.

The change is a result of the government putting more emphasis on skilled migrants and reducing the quota for refugees and family reunions.

Migrants from English-speaking nations including Britain, South Africa, Zimbabwe and India are more likely to hold university degrees than those from poorer countries. They also score additional points for their language proficiency.

The number of settlers with a degree has risen from 32 per cent in 1999 to 42 per cent in the most recent survey.

The report did not offer an explanation for the huge rise in British immigrants, but surveys in Britain consistently show that a large proportion of the population would leave if they could.

In April, a survey conducted by ICM Research found that 52 per cent of Britons said they would consider emigrating, with 7 per cent hoping to relocate outside the country in the near future.