The tide has officially turned
It has been one of the most significant migrations in Britain's recent history. In only the last six years, our population has been boosted by one million eastern Europeans, mostly Poles. At its height in 2007, an additional 200 people arrived every day from eight former Iron-Curtain countries which had joined the EU three years earlier - the so-called A8. Now the east-west tide has officially turned. In the year to last September, 12,000 more A8 nationals left than came.
This graph from today's immigration statistics [272Kb PDF] tells an extraordinary story that has had an effect on almost every community in Britain.
The legacy of this wave of migrants, however, may be permanent. Poles are now the largest foreign group resident in the UK. A decade ago, Polish beer could only be found in specialty shops. Today some 40 million pints are consumed in Britain each year. Polish delis, barbers, churches and pubs: the great Eastern European migration has left its cultural mark on the British landscape for generations to come.
The suddenness and the scale of the arrivals sent a shock-wave through parts of the UK unused to immigration. It pushed the issue to the top of the political agenda for a time. Although EU migration is not covered by government controls, arguably it has been the presence of hundreds of thousands of Poles, Latvians and Albanians that has driven ministers to promise a cap on non-EU skilled workers.
Today's figures also include some interesting detail [132Kb PDF] on what Eastern European and other economic migrants are like. Those from outside the EU are generally more qualified than the average British worker. A third are graduates; 21% work in banking or finance. 31% are in public services like health and education.
Among workers from Eastern Europe, just 5% have degrees. Just over 29% work in hospitality or distribution - relatively low-paid jobs. A quarter are in manufacturing.
It is perhaps the increasing scarcity of such work that has prompted the end, for now at least, of "the great Eastern European invasion".