The number of migrants who have come to Britain over the past eight years has reached 2.3million, according to a Whitehall estimate. This brings the total to around three million since Labour came to power in 1997. Estimates of the level of immigration were produced to ‘fill the gap’ left by the Government’s unreliable statistics of the past dozen years. The findings were slipped out without notice last month and only revealed yesterday after academics discovered them and reported them to an immigration think-tank.

The figures dwarf ministers’ past admissions of migrant numbers and bear out the forecasts of critics who warned that immigration was running dangerously out of control. The report for the Communities and Local Government Department by consultants Oxford Economics said there were 4.3million foreign-born people living in the UK in 2001. That number had risen to 6.6million by last year – just under 11 per cent of the population. Of the 3.5million working migrants, just over two million were in the country before 2004.

Among the 1.5million people who have arrived since 2004, 620,000 are from Poland and other Eastern European countries who joined the EU that year, the report added. Home Office projections issued before the borders were opened said numbers arriving from Eastern Europe would be 13,000 a year. On top of the 2.3million migrants said to have arrived since 2001, it is thought around 700,000 arrived between 1997 and 2000.

Migration information collected by the Office for National Statistics has been discredited since the disastrous national census of 2001 missed a million people. The figures have been based on a small-scale survey of people arriving at air and sea ports. Notes to the latest study say it is ‘one of several aiming to fill the gap in migration data’. The Government is currently involved in an expensive effort to find a way to produce accurate figures.

The Migrationwatch think-tank, which drew attention to the Oxford Economics report, said the Government’s contempt for public concerns about immigration had boosted the political fortunes of the far Right. Its chairman Sir Andrew Green said: ‘It is ironic that this is the week in which the BNP will be represented on Question Time and is an appalling indictment of the way the present Government has handled this sensitive issue. ‘Not only have they totally failed to be honest with the British people but have treated their legitimate concerns with ill-concealed contempt. The success of the BNP can be laid firmly at their door.’

Sir Andrew said Migrationwatch predictions in 2002 that immigration was running at the rate of at least two million each decade had been dismissed on the political Left as nasty, muddled, duplicitous and scaremongering. He added: ‘It is absolutely essential that the main parties now commit themselves to a very sharp cut in immigration.’

Current projections say numbers in Britain, currently around 61million, will reach 70million by 2029 thanks to continued immigration and high birthrates among migrants. Immigration minister Phil Woolas has said he will not allow migration to push the population that high.

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