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Changes to the international migrant population of Northern Ireland 2001-2011

26 Jun 2015

Oxford University’s Migration Observatory releases comprehensive census analysis of the population of Northern Ireland born outside the United Kingdom (UK) and Republic of Ireland (RoI)

A major analysis of the international migrant population of Northern Ireland has been released today by Oxford University’s Migration Observatory. It showed that Northern Ireland’s population born outside the UK and the RoI tripled in a decade.

Belfast had by far the largest population of residents born outside the UK and the RoI (18,414), followed by Craigavon (6,712) and Dungannon (5,998). However Dungannon saw the biggest change in its population of residents born outside the UK and the RoI between 2001-2011, which increased more than tenfold (1,139%) from 484 in 2001 to 5,998 in 2011.

Dungannon also had the largest share of residents born outside the UK and the RoI in its population, who represented just over 10% of the local population in 2011 – an increase from 1% in 2001. The average for Northern Ireland as a whole in 2011 was 4.5%.

Numbers and shares:

  • In 2011, the total usual resident population of Northern Ireland stood at just over 1.8 million residents. About 4.5% of those residents (81,314) were born outside of the UK and the Republic of Ireland.
  • This represents a 199% increase on 2001, when Northern Ireland’s population share of residents born outside the UK and the RoI stood at 1.6% (27,266 residents)
  • In 2011, 32.8% of the population born outside of the UK and the Republic of Ireland held a UK and/or an Irish passport, and 61.3% held only a non-UK/Irish passport. The rest (5.9%) held no passport.

Regional distribution:

  • Between 2001 and 2011, the total population born outside of the UK and the Republic of Ireland grew numerically the most in Belfast (+11,873) followed by Craigavon (+5,602)
  • Between 2001 and 2011 the biggest percentage increase (+1,139%) took place in Dungannon, followed by Craigavon (+505%)
  • The place with the smallest share of residents born outside the UK and the RoI in the population in 2011 was Strabane, where fewer than 2 people in every 100 (1.7%) were in this category, nevertheless this represented an increase of more than 100% on the share in 2001 which stood at less than 0.6%.

Migrant profiles:

  • Residents born in Poland (19,658 residents) represented the most numerous group of residents born outside the UK and the RoI in Northern Ireland in 2011, this was followed by residents born in Lithuania (7,341) and India (4,796).
  • Polish-born residents represented 24.2% of the total population of residents born outside the UK and the RoI in Northern Ireland.
  • There were 50,376 residents of Northern Ireland who spoke a language other than English or Irish (Gaelic) as their main language in 2011. This represents 2.9% of the total resident population aged 3 and above. For those residents, the most commonly spoken language was Polish.

Dr Carlos Vargas-Silva, the Senior Researcher leading the census project at the Migration Observatory at Oxford University, said: “Northern Ireland saw a 199% increase in its population of residents born outside the UK and the RoI in the 10 years between 2001-2011, but it is important to note that these residents were less than 2% of the total population of Northern Ireland in 2001 and remained less than 5% in 2011.

“This starting point means that some towns with a small share of international migrant residents in 2001 saw a particularly sharp increase in the number of international migrants in their populations – Dungannon’s increase of more than a thousand percent is an example. This increase was largely due to migration from the new EU accession countries. The most common country of birth of international migrants in Northern Ireland in 2011 was Poland, followed by Lithuania.”

IMPORTANT NOTE: Direct comparisons with other Migration Observatory other census profiles – covering the rest of the UK – are not advised because of Northern Ireland’s unique cultural, geographical and citizenship contexts. In keeping with the definition of ‘international migrants’ used by the Northern Ireland Statistics and Research Agency (NISRA) the Migration Observatory’s Northern Ireland census briefing excludes those born in both the UK and the RoI. This means that while the change in the share of the “migrant” population in Dungannon is greater than the change anywhere else in the UK the definition of “migrant” is also different, excluding the RoI, and therefore invalidating direct comparisons.

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