THE Balearics is currently the region of Spain with the highest percentage of foreign population, the National Institute of Statistics (INE) reported yesterday.

More than a fifth (22 percent) of people living in the Balearics are non-Spanish nationals, said the INE. The Islands are followed in second place by Valencia (17.3%), and by Madrid (16.6%). At the other end of the scale the regions with the lowest percentage of foreign population are Extremadura (3.5%), Galicia (3.9%) and Asturias (4.5%).

Meanwhile, INE researchers were able to show that although the number of foreigners in the country grew last year by 1.1 percent (60'269), it was the lowest increase in recent years.

At the end of last year, there were 46'951'532 people registered as living in Spain, 0.4 percent more than in 2008 (205'725). More than 5.7 million people on the register (12.2 percent) were foreign - of this figure, 2.3 million were from other member states of the European Union.

The INE revealed through comparison with other recent years, how low the increase in foreign population in Spain in 2009 actually was. In 2005, the register grew by 11.1 percent; in 2006 by 8.17 percent; in 2007 the increase in percentage almost doubled to 15.5 percent but slowed down to 6.3 percent in 2008.

The Institute's analysis also demonstrated that whilst the number of foreigners from other EU countries rose last year by 73'289 people to reach a total of 2'346'515, the numbers coming to live in Spain from elsewhere dropped by 13'020 to settle at 3'362'425.

In terms of absolute numbers - as opposed to of percentages - the regions where the foreign population increased the most were Andalucia by 23'195, Madrid (7'489) and the Basque Country (6'364). In contrast, the regions which lost the highest numbers from their immigrant population were Valencia (-4'718), La Rioja (-589), Aragon (-123), and Castilla y Leon (-44).

The INE report also examined where Spain's resident foreign population comes from. Of the 2'346'515 immigrants coming from other EU member states, the largest group is from Romania (829'715), followed by the United Kingdom (387'226) and Germany (195'579).

Amongst the non-EU resident foreign population, the largest groups are from Morocco (746'760), Ecuador (395'069) and Colombia (289'296.)
In 2009, the Institute's report showed that for yet another year, Romania was the country which brought the highest number of newcomers to Spain (30'823). The number of Moroccans registered in the country rose by 28'705, and another 11'523 British and 9'128 Chinese came to live here.