MORE people from outside of the European Union arrived to live in Spain, Germany, the UK and Italy than any other countries, according to the latest figures to be released yesterday.
The figures from Eurostat, the European Union's statistics department, show these were the only four member states that accepted more than 100'000 immigrants in 2008, the most recent data available.
Spain had 498'900 immigrants from outside the EU, the UK 307'400, Italy 283'700 and Germany 237'900. These four countries took more than two-thirds, 67 %, of all immigrants to any of the EU member states. France used to admit high numbers of immigrants, but it took only 89'000 two years ago.
Overall, EU member states received a total of 3.8 million immigrants in 2008, down 6% from the previous year. Italy is the main destination for hundreds of thousands of migrants and refugees from Africa and the Middle East who see it as the easiest route into Europe, and Spain is the choice for immigrants from Latin America.
The report also shows that international migration is one of the key drivers of population growth in the EU and immigrants are younger.
The figures will add to the current government policy in the UK to reduce immigrants by tens of thousands. A controversial new cap is due to start in April.