FIGURES RELEASED yesterday by the Spanish National Institute of Statistics reveal 9,344 people of UK nationality registered as living in the province, returned home last year.

The figures are the highest within the Valencia region and run for the full year ending December 31 2016.

The amount of British expatriates living in Alicante Province has shown a steady decline year on year ever since the financial crisis, which crippled the country in 2009.

However, last year saw the greatest exodus back to the UK, putting the amount of Britons living in the province back to the levels of 2004.

The statistics show at January 1 this year 63,010 UK nationals were registered as residing in Alicante province.

This still leaves British expatriates as the largest group of non-Spanish residents in the province, with a total of 16% of all foreign residents.

The report shows that the lack of purchasing power felt by UK nationals since the economic crisis has seen the Alicante population fall by over half since 2008, but the numbers accelerated last year following the Brexit referendum and the decision to leave the European Union.

Although the UK tops the list of people leaving, other nationalities also left the province to return home in significant numbers. German nationals were reduced by 3,054 and French by 354.

The figures show an increase in people moving into the Province from Algeria (144), Morocco (1,131) and Columbia (1,049), wheareas Argentina, Ecuador and Russia all saw decreases in population.

By contrast, the Chinese population continues to increase year on year since 1998, when the statistics were first introduced. There are currently 8,349 Chinese living in the province, an increase of 80 on last year.