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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 20041and 20072, 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

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 rose to 1,748 in 2013, and to a record level of 2,436 in 2014:

 NINo Registrations to non-UK Nationals, Bedford BoroughNINo Registrations to non-UK Nationals

Source: DWP, NINo Registrations

A total of 21,518 NINos were issued to non-UK nationals resident in Bedford Borough between 2002 and 2014.

Poland has been the largest source of NINo registrations in each year since 2004, followed by Lithuanian and Indian nationals.  In total, NINos were issued to 8,000 people from Poland in Bedford Borough between 2004 and 2014.

While in-migration from the EU Accession countries accounted for a large proportion of the growth in the Borough’s BME population between the 2001 and 2011 Censuses, it is important to note that there has been significant in-migration from many other countries. 

This includes people from countries such as India and Pakistan where new migrants have added to communities that were already well established in Bedford Borough in 2001, but also arrivals from countries that were not significant features of the Borough’s ethnic composition in 2001.  Examples include migrants from Afghanistan and Zimbabwe.

Following the removal in January 2014 of restrictions on the right of Romanian and Bulgarian nationals to work in the UK, there has also been significant in-migration from these countries, especially from Romania. 

In 2014, Romania (579) was the second highest source of NINo registrants, after Poland (689).

In the first half of 2015 the number of NINos issued to Romanian nationals (374) actually exceeded the number to Polish nationals (319).  This has also been reflected in the number of school pupils who have Romanian as their first language; these doubled between Spring 2014 and Spring 2015.


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 had 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 though this is likely to be an under-estimation 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 77% of the total increase between 2001 and 2014, and for 32% of all births in 2014.

Births to mothers born in the New European Union Accession countries (countries which joined the EU in 2004 and 2007) have increased dramatically since 2004, from 1% of all births to 12% in 2014.

Births to mothers born in Asia and the Middle East accounted for 11% of all births in 2014.


Births to Mothers Born Outside the UK, Bedford Borough

 Births to Mothers Born outside the UK

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 (3,841); Panjabi (2,449); Bengali (1,691); and Italian (1,470).

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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