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International Migration

Since 2001, there has been large scale in-migration to Bedford Borough from the Accession States which entered the European Union in 2004  and 2007 , along with significant in-migration from Africa, Asia and the Middle East.


Numbers are difficult to estimate with confidence, the main sources being National Insurance Number registrations (NINo) and 2011 Census data.

National Insurance Number Registrations to Foreign Nationals

National Insurance Number Registrations to Foreign Nationals

NINo registrations, however are merely indicative of the scale of international migration, since the NINo data:


  • Excludes those who may have moved to the Borough after registering elsewhere in the UK,
  • Takes no account of dependants
  • Provides no information on the numbers who may have left Bedford Borough for other UK destinations or to return to their country of origin


In Bedford Borough, NINo registrations to overseas nationals rose sharply following the expansion of the EU in 2004, peaking at 2,220 in 2006.  They then fell steadily to 1,404 in 2009 before rising again to 1,904 in 2011.

They declined to 1,396 in 2012, but have continued to rise year on year.  In 2015, there were 2,824 NINo registrations to foreign nationals in Bedford Borough.

Figure 1:  NINo Registrations to non-UK Nationals, Bedford Borough


Source:  DWP, NINo registrations


A total of  22,257 NINos have been issued to non-UK nationals in Bedford Borough since 2005.  Poland has been the largest source of NINo registrations in each year since 2005, but in 2015 there were more NINos issued to Romanian nationals (925) than Polish (723).  This has also been reflected in the number of school pupils who have Romanian as their first language.  The number of statutory aged school pupils with Romanian as their first language has increased from 156 in Spring  2015 to 215 in Spring 2016.


2011 Census Migration data

The 2011 Census indicates that 27,700 people in Bedford Borough were born outside the UK, representing 17.6% of the total population.  This was a substantial increase over 2001 (18,100 – 12.2%).  Of these residents, 12, 900 have arrived in the UK since 2001.

The largest number of residents born outside the UK was from Poland.  The 2011 Census estimate is 3,995 although this is likely to be an underestimation due to the difficulty in enumerating the many younger adults who form a majority of new arrivals from Poland.

A detailed 2011 Census breakdown of Country of Birth in Bedford Borough is available here

Country of origin of Birth Mother


The pattern of births to mothers born outside the UK is another indicator of the level and origin of in-migration.

The increase in annual births which the Borough has experienced since 2001 can be largely attributed to mothers born outside the UK who accounted for x of the total increase between 2001 and 2015, and for x of all births in 2015.

Births to mothers born in the New European Union Accession countries (counrties which joined the EU in 2004 and 2007 have increased since 2004, from 1% of all births to 13% in 2015.

Births to mothers born in Asia and the Middle East accounted for 10.5% of all births in 2015.


Figure 2:  Births to Mothers Born Outside the UK, Bedford Borough


Source: ONS, Births by Mother’s Country of Birth, 2001-2014. *Countries which joined the EU in 2004-2007.

Languages spoken in Bedford Borough

Detailed data on languages spoken in Bedford Borough and on households in which no one has English as a main language is available from the 2011 Census.

More than 100 languages are spoken in Bedford Borough.  The languages most commonly spoken as a main language are Polish (3841), Panjabi (2449), Bengali (1691) and Italian (1470).

In 4,170 households, no adult has English as a main language, and in a further 612 households only a child has English as a main language.  These households are particularly concentrated in Castle, Cauldwell, Harpur, Kingsbrook and Queens Park wards.


1 Cyprus, Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Malta, Poland, Slovakia, and Slovenia.

2 Bulgaria and Romania.

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