Census statistics have revealed that in 2001 the number of foreign-born residents was just over 7,000, but in 2011 this had risen to more than 14,000.
Foreign-born residents now account for 14% of Gravesham’s overall population of almost 102,000.
Across the South East – which the Office for National Statistics measures as being from the east coast of Kent, stretching as far west as Salisbury and north to Milton Keynes, excluding London and Essex – Gravesham has had the sixth highest relative increase of non-UK residents.
In Medway, there are more than 27,000 non-UK born residents – more than Gravesham and Dartford combined – a 76% increase on the 15,000 in 2001.
This puts Medway 15th in the national league table. Milton Keynes was highest. Its foreign-born population increased from 20,000 to 45,000 during the 10 years, a 125% rise.
In comparison to the national figures, which include 391 districts and unitary authorities across England and Wales, Gravesham came in as having the 53rd highest increase.
Gravesham has a high percentage of Indian and German migrants and is twinned with Neumunster in Germany and Jalhandar in India – as well as Cambrai in France and Chesterfield County in Virginia, USA.
Town twinning has been part of the life of Gravesham for more than 25 years, with school exchanges and sports clubs joining in each others’ competitions.
Reacting to the figures, Gravesham MP Adam Holloway (Con) said: “Since the 1950s controlled immigration has served Gravesham well.
“But the uncontrolled and probably deliberate mass immigration of the Blair and Brown governments has put enormous pressure on the welfare state, education, hospitals, jobs and housing.
“This government has reduced annual immigration by a third, but is unable to control ‘mobility of labour’ from the EU.
“In my view we desperately need a referendum on our membership as we are completely bonkers to further open our labour markets.”
A report out this week by University College London indicates that immigrants to the UK since 2000 have made a “substantial” contribution to public finances.
The authors of the report, Christian Dustmann and Tommaso Frattini from UCL’s Centre for Research and Analysis of Migration, wrote: “Rather than being a drain on the UK’s fiscal system – immigrants arriving since the early 2000s have made substantial net contributions to its public finances, a reality that contrasts starkly with the view often maintained in public debate.”
According to the report, immigrants to the UK since 2000 are 45% less likely to receive state benefits or tax credits than the native population.
The report adds: “These differences are partly explainable by immigrants’ more favourable age-gender composition.
“However, even when compared to natives with the same age, gender composition, and education, recent immigrants are still 21% less likely than natives to receive benefits.
“Those who arrived to the UK since 2000, and who have driven the stark increase in the UK’s foreign-born population, contributed far more in taxes than they received in benefits.”