In a reminder of the mounting political focus on immigration, the European Union logged a net migration influx of nearly 900,000 people last year, four times the natural growth between births and deaths.
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However, the numbers of legal immigrants fell for the second successive year, according to Eurostat figures. The EU's population grew by 1.1-million last year after a near-1.8-million drop the previous year. Movement of people, in and out of the 28-state bloc, as well as within the EU, remained heavily influenced by a record 18-month recession running right through 2012 for the 17 countries sharing the euro currency.
Spain hemorrhaged more than 160,000 people after a burst property and credit bubble that has left nearly three people in five under the age of 25 unemployed.
Migrants in France (Photo: AFP)
The biggest magnets for migrants, by a considerable margin, were Germany and Italy, which posted net migration increases of some 390,000 and 370,000 people, despite more deaths than births in each of these countries.
Government bailout recipients Greece, Ireland and Portugal each saw more people leave than arrive last year, although Ireland more than made up for this emigration with births far outstripping deaths there.
Lithuania's population, meanwhile, fell under three million.
The former Soviet republic has seen an extraordinary half-a-million collapse in its population in the short space of a decade, many to Britain, Ireland and other EU countries since its 2004 entry. In absolute terms, Britain's population posted the biggest increase, nearly 400,000 more people due both to natural growth and net immigration.
The EU's total population as of January 1, 2013, was 505.7-million -- 331.1-million in the countries that share the euro. Some 5.2 million babies were born in the EU last year.
Of the biggest countries, the populations of Germany (80.5 million), France (65.6 million), Britain (63.9 million) and Italy (59.7 million) each grew.
Total population (natural change and net migration) increased in 17 countries: Belgium, Britain, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Germany, Ireland, France, Italy, Cyprus, Luxembourg, Malta, Netherlands, Austria, Slovenia, Slovakia, Finland, Sweden.
The overall figure decreased in 11 countries: Bulgaria, Estonia, Greece, Spain, Croatia, Latvia, Lithuania, Hungary, Poland, Portugal and Romania.
A major exporter of people around its EU entry in 2004, Poland's net migration outflow nevertheless fell to fewer than 7,000 people in 2012.
Wealthy non-EU neighbours Norway and Switzerland each saw more than one new immigrant for every 100 inhabitants in 2012.
The highest death rates were found in the former Communist territories of Bulgaria, Latvia, Lithuania, Hungary, Romania and Croatia, each of between 12 and 15 percent.
Ireland posted the lowest with 6.3 percent.
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