4.4 per cent of Malta's population in 2009 consisted of foreigners according to the latest statistics issued in Brussels by Eurostat, an increase of 3,100 over 2008.

The increase resulted mostly from citizens of non-EU member states particularly from sub-Saharan Africans which were granted international protection.

According to the new figures, in 2009 there were 18,100 foreign residents in Malta, 8,200 coming from other EU member states and 9,900 from non-EU member states.

In 2008, the number of foreign residents in Malta stood at 15,000.

In 2009 the number of EU citizens residing n the island increased by just 200 when compared to 2008, while the population in Malta from non-EU citizens grew by 2,900.

Asked whether the total number of foreign residents in Malta also includes persons who were given international protection, a spokesman for Eurostat confirmed that this was the case.

"When calculating the population, the migration component includes people granted international protection," the spokesman said.

"By definition, a migrant is any person who comes to live in Malta with an intention to stay for a minimum of 12 months," she said.

In 2008 the biggest number of foreign residents in Malta consisted of Britons (4,100) followed by Indians (900), Serbs (800) and Bulgarians (800). No such data exists for 2009.

Although the number of foreign residents in Malta is high when compared to Malta population, which in 2009 stood at 414,000, it is not as high as the average in the EU. Eurostat said that in 2009, the number of foreign residents in the EU 27 stood at an average of 6.4 per cent, two percentage points more than Malta.

In the EU27, the number of foreign residents amounted to almost 40 million of whom only 12 million were citizens of another EU member state. The remaining were citizens of countries outside the EU27, in particular from other European countries (7.2 million), Africa (4.9 million), Asia (4.0 million) and the American continent (3.3 million).

In 2009, the largest numbers of foreign citizens were recorded in Germany (7.2 million persons), Spain (5.7 million), the United Kingdom (4 million in 2008), Italy (3.9 million) and France (3.7 million).

Among the member states, the highest percentage of foreign citizens in the population was observed in Luxembourg (44 per cent of the total population), followed by Latvia (18 per cent), Cyprus and Estonia (both 16 per cent), Spain (12 per cent), Ireland (11 per cent) and Austria (10 per cent).

The percentage of foreign citizens was 1 per cent or less in Poland, Romania, Bulgaria and Slovakia. In 2009, the number of residents in Malta who were not Maltese-born amounted to 27,700 or 6.7 per cent of the total population.

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