The number of Eastern Europeans applying to work in the UK has fallen to its lowest level since 2005, according to official Home Office statistics.
The figures show that between January and March 2008 there were 45,000 applications from nationals of the eight countries that joined the EU in 2004 – down 13% from the same period in the previous year, when there were 52,000.
The number of Bulgarians and Romanians applying to work in the UK has also reached a record low since EU expansion, with only 8,205 applications in the first three months of this year, compared to 10,420 in the same period in 2007.
Last month a study by the Institute of Public Policy Research (IPPR) think-tank found that fewer migrants were arriving from Eastern Europe, while greater numbers than ever before were in fact leaving the UK.
The report warned that the UK may no longer be able to rely on a ready supply of workers prepared to move around the country doing jobs that most UK workers seem unable or unwilling to do.
Immigration minister Liam Byrne said: “People in Britain welcome legal migrants who work hard and play by the rules. But we will not tolerate law breakers, which is why we will prioritise their expulsion from Britain.”