LONDON, Aug. 24 (Xinhua) -- Fewer citizens from European Union (EU) countries moving to Britain led to a fall in net migration, representing the lowest level in Britain's net migration for three years, the British Office for National Statistics (ONS) reported Thursday.
ONS said long-term international migration was estimated to be 246,000 in the year ending March 2017, down 81,000 from 327,000 a year earlier.
The figures show that more than half of the change in migration is accounted for by a decrease in the number of EU nationals moving to Britain, which has fallen by 51,000 compared to last year.
At the same time, the number of Europeans leaving Britain during the year was up by 33,000, said the office.
There was a sharp rise of 17,000 citizens from the so-called EU8 countries departing and heading back to the Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Slovakia and Slovenia.
ONS said it could be related to Brexit.
An ONS spokesperson said, "These results indicate that the EU referendum result may be influencing people's decision to migrate into and out of the UK, particularly EU and EU8 citizens. It is too early to tell if this is an indication of a long-term trend."
Meanwhile, the two big employer's organizations, the Institute of Directors (IOD) and the Confederation of British Industry (CBI), both expressed alarm at the growing number of departing Europeans.
A spokesman for the IOD said, "Given unemployment (in Britain) is currently at its lowest level ever, without the three million EU citizens living here the UK would have an acute labor shortage. Signs that it is becoming a less attractive place to live and work are a concern."
Matthew Percival, head of employment at the Confederation of British Industry (CBI) said, "Against the backdrop of record employment and rising skills shortages, EU nationals make a crucial contribution to UK economic growth and job creation.
"This latest data reflects a trend many businesses have seen -- an increase in the number of EU citizens leaving the country," he said. "The loss of these vital skills should concern us all, underlining the importance of urgently providing certainty for millions of workers and their families."
Also of concern was a fall of 27,000 in the number of students heading to Britain to study. ONS described the reduced number as significant.
The biggest number of students was from non-EU countries, but accounting for 20,000 of the reduced number. It means the number of students heading to British universities from other continents has fallen.
ONS said 51,000 non-British citizens emigrated to return home, up from 34,000 a year earlier. Around 44,000 of those departing were EU citizens, up 20,000 from the 2016 total.
During the review year, 16,211 people were granted asylum by the British government or resettlement or an alternative form of protection, a 7-percent increase from 15,108 in the previous year.
The net migration figure is calculated by subtracting the number of people leaving from the number of those arriving.
The figure, still a significant six-figure number, remains higher than an eventual government goal to see migration drop to the "tens of thousands".