Immigrants to the UK in the last decade contributed 25bn and were less likely to claim benefits or live in social housing than people already living in Britain, a new report finds.

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The study, by University College London, found that people who had moved to the UK since 2000 had made a "substantial" contribution to public finances, rather than being a drain on them.

It was estimated that their net contribution was £25bn over a period of 10 years.

Those who arrived since 1999 were 45 per cent less likely to receive benefits or tax credits between 2000 and 2011 than those born in the UK, and were 3 per cent less likely to live in social housing, according to Professor Christian Dustmann and Dr Tommaso Frattini from UCL's Centre for Research and Analysis of Migration.

"These differences are partly explainable by immigrants' more favourable age-gender composition," they said.

"However, even when compared to natives with the same age, gender composition, and education, recent immigrants are still 21 per cent less likely than natives to receive benefits."

Skilled immigration

People from the European Economic Area (EEA - the EU plus Norway, Iceland and Liechtenstein) contributed 34 per cent more in taxes than they received in benefits in the decade to 2011, while those from outside the EEA contributed 2 per cent more in taxes than they received in the same period, the report showed.

Yet British people paid 11 per cent less in tax than they received during the same period.

It also found marked differences in levels of education, revealing that in 2011, 32 per cent of recent EEA immigrants and 43 per cent of non-EEA immigrants had university degrees, compared with 21 per cent of the British adult population.

But the study also discovered that between 1995 and 2011, non-EEA immigrants claimed more in benefits than they paid in taxes, mainly because they had more children than people already living here.

Prof Dustmann said the findings, reached using data from the British Labour Force Survey and government reports, showed that "in contrast with most other European countries, the UK attracts highly educated and skilled immigrants from within the EEA as well as from outside".

He added: "Our study also suggests that over the last decade or so, the UK has benefited fiscally from immigrants from EEA countries, who have put in considerably more in taxes and contributions than they received in benefits and transfers."Given this evidence, claims about 'benefit tourism' by EEA immigrants seem to be disconnected from reality."

'Negative contribution'

Sir Andrew Green, of the pressure group Migrationwatch UK, told the BBC Radio 4 Today programme: "We've had roughly four million immigrants under the previous government. Two thirds of those were from outside the European Union.

"What this report finds is that, since 1995, they have made 'a negative contribution overall', but in the last two years they've contributed 2 per cent. So the verdict for non-EU is that the benefit to the exchequer is minimal or negative. For EU (migrants) it is clearly positive."