Over the centuries, Germany has been shaped by various migration movements and is now largely considered an "immigration country". In 2015, a large group of refugees came to Europe. Most of them were seeking asylum from war-torn countries such as Syria, Afghanistan, and Iraq. Germany became the number one receiving country within the European Union. In this section, you will find facts and figures on refugees and migration in Germany.
- In the first six months of 2019, there were 84,866 asylum applications, of which 72,953 were first-time applications.
- This corresponds to a nine percent decrease as compared to the same time period in 2018.
- The German Federal Office for Migration and Refugees (BAMF) ruled on 102,489 cases during this period. The protection rateThe protection rate (in German: "Schutzquote") is an administrative term for the percentage of asylum applications that receive a positive ruling. That includes all rulings which grant asylum, refugee status, or subsidiary protection as well as non-refoulement cases. Public authorities and the federal government use this rate to categorize states according to how good their citizens’ prospect is of staying (in German: "Bleibeperspektive") is. was running at 36.3 percentThis includes persons entitled to asylum under Art. 16a of the German Constitution, refugees as defined under the Geneva Refugee Convention, people entitled to subsidiary protection, and cases of non-refoulement under § 60 paragraph 5 or paragraph 7 sentence 1 of the German Residence Act.. SourceCurrent figures regarding asylum 6/2019, Federal Office for Migration and Refugees (BAMF)
- In the year 2018, there were 185,853 asylum applications, of which 161,931 were first-time applications.
- The main countries of origin were Syria, Afghanistan, and Iraq.
- The German Federal Office for Migration and Refugees ruled on 216,873 cases during this period with a protection rateThe protection rate (in German: "Schutzquote") is an administrative term for the percentage of asylum applications which recieves a positive ruling. That includes all rulings which grant asylum, refugee status or subsidiary protection as well as non-refoulement cases. Public authorities and the federal government use this rate to categorize states into groups depending on how good their prospect of staying (in German: "Bleibeperspektive") is. of 35 percent.SourceReport on Asylum Activities (Asylgeschäftsbericht) December 2018
The BAMF ruled on 102,489 asylum applications in the first six months of 2019. 37,241 persons were granted protection. The protection rate for this period was 36.3 percent (total protection rate). SourceCurrent figures regarding Asylum 06/2019, Federal Office for Migration and Refugees
- 23,312 persons received “refugee protection” under § 3 Asylum Procedure Act,
- 1,185 persons received "asylum" under Article 16a of the German Constitution,
- 9,254 persons received subsidiary protection,
- 3,490 persons received a deportation ban based on EU law or international agreements.
According to the Central Register of Foreign Nationals (AZR), as of the end of 2018, there were approximately 1.1 million people living in Germany who have received some level of refugee protection. This is 22 percent higher than at the end of 2017. About one in every five from this group has been living in Germany for at least six years.SourceAnswer of the Federal Government to a parliamentary enquiry of the "Linke" group, BT-Drs. 19/8258 pages 3 and ff
These are the four main groups considered in the asylum-statistics:
- 43,000 who are entitled to asylum according to Article 16a of Germany’s Basic Law. The majority of this group comes from Turkey and has been living in Germany for some time.
- 654,300 refugees under the Geneva Convention, most of whom arrived from Syria or Iraq within the past five years.
- 227,000 beneficiaries of subsidiary protection, the majority of whom also come from Syria and Iraq and arrived to Germany more recently.
- 97,000 people who cannot be deported due to the UN Convention against Torture – mostly from Afghanistan.
In addition there are other people who benefit from other forms of protection (figures rounded up):
- 91,000 who have been granted a residence or settlement permit "in order to safeguard special political interests of the Federal Republic of Germany " (AufenthG §23 paragraph 2). Most have been living in Germany for a longer time and come from the former Soviet Union.
- 22,300 foreigners who are obliged to leave the country and whose departure has not been possible "for legal or factual reasons" for more than 18 months (AufenthG §25 paragraph 4). Most are rejected asylum seekers.
- 24,300 who have been granted protection by Germany’s federal states for special humanitarian reasons (AufenthG §23 paragraph 1). One example are Syrians who entered the country as part of the federal state’s reception programs.
- 54,000 who have been granted temporary residence for "urgent humanitarian or personal reasons" (AufenthG §25 paragraph 5).
Outside of this 1.1 million, an additional 353,000 people in Germany are still waiting for a decision on their asylum application or have appealed against a decision made by the Federal Office for Migration and Refugees (situation: March 31st 2019). Around 180,000 rejected asylum seekers also live in Germany as so-called ‘Geduldete‘ or tolerated persons .
The number of "foreigners" (i.e. residents without German nationality) varies depending on the survey concerned:
- According to the Micro-Census, there were 9.9 million "foreigners" living in Germany in 2018. This is a new high. Of this figure, about 1.5 million had "no migration experience" because they were born in Germany.SourceGerman Federal Statistical Office (2019): press release dated 21 August 2019
- According to the "Central Register of Foreign Nationals” (AZR), there were about 10.9 million "foreigners" living in Germany at the end of 2018. This corresponds to an increase of 2.7 percent (292,000 persons) compared to 2017. SourceGerman Federal Statistical Office (2019): press release dated 15 April 2019
- The “Population Projection” predicted that around 10.1 million "foreigners" would live in Germany by the end of 2018. In contrast to the AZR, the "Population Projection" is based on the "2011 Census", which is currently the most up-to-date census in Germany.SourceGerman Federal Statistical Office (2018) Foreign Nationals Fachserie 1 Reihe 2
It cannot be stated with certainty which of these figures is the most reliable. Experts suspect that the AZR figures are too high. This is because the AZR was most recently “adjusted” in 2004, i.e. reconciled with the data of the regional foreigners’ registration offices (Ausländerbehörden). Back then, the number of “foreigners” had to be adjusted for error and significantly reduced. In addition, the AZR had not been reconciled with the 2011 Census "for technical and legal reasons" as the Federal Statistical Office explains.
In 2018, there were around 20.8 million people with what is called a migration backgroundPersons with a migrant background are those who have immigrated to today’s territory of the Federal Republic of Germany after 1949 and all foreigners born in Germany as well as all people born as Germans in Germany with at least one parent who has immigrated or one parent born as a foreigner in Germany. Source: German Federal Statistical Office: Statistical Yearbook. living in Germany – this corresponds to 25.5 percent of the total population. In 2017, it was 24.8 percent.
- Around 10.9 million, the majority have a German passport.
- Around 9.9 million are foreigners.
- Around 13.5 million have their "own migration experience", meaning they were born abroad and have immigrated.SourceGerman Federal Statistical Office: Press release from August 21st 2019
Of the 20.8 million “persons with a migration background”,
- 13.3 per cent come from Turkey (around 2.8 million),
- 10.8 per cent from Poland (around 2.3 million),
- 6.6 per cent from the Russian Federation (around 1.4 million).SourceGerman Federal Statistical Office (2019): Findings of the Central Register of Foreign Nationals 2017 Fachserie 1 Reihe 2.2 p. 128
Most of the 13.5 million people who immigrated to Germany themselves come from Europe: around 67 per cent come from European countries (including Turkey), around 39 per cent of these from EU member states.SourceGerman Federal Statistical Office (2019): Findings of the Central Register of Foreign Nationals 2018 Fachserie 1 Reihe 2.2 p. 131
About 2.6 millionSource: German Federal Statistical Office (2019): Findings of the Central Register of Foreign Nationals 2018 Fachserie 1 Reihe 2.2 p. 128 “Ethnic Germans" from Eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union – referred to as repatriates and late repatriates – live in the Federal Republic of Germany. According to the definition of the Federal Ministry of the Interior, the people involved are “persons of German descent who suffered under the consequences of the Second World War in Eastern and South-Eastern Europe and in the Soviet Union (and who) even decades after the end of the war were being massively persecuted due to their ethnicity”. In 2013, the German Federal Office for Migration and Refugees published a comprehensive Research Overview on integration of the (late) repatriates.SourceGerman Federal Statistic Office (2019): Findings of the Central Register of Foreign Nationals 2018. Fachserie 1 Reihe 2.2 p. 128
Since the early post-war years, they have enjoyed special protection in the Federal Republic of Germany. In 1953, the German federal government under Konrad Adenauer offered them an opportunity under the Federal Expellee Act to immigrate together with their families, and to enjoy full civil rights in Germany, to which they are entitled under the German Constitution Article 116. Besides the late repatriates from Russia, the most late repatriates came following the collapse of the Soviet Union from the Republic of Kazakhstan (575,000), where the Stalinist regime had banished the “Russian-Germans” during the wartime years.SourceGerman Federal Office for Migration and Refugees (2013): (Late) Repatriates in Germany, p. 38
People with migration links to Turkey, according to the Micro-Census, with around 2.8 million constituted the largest grouping of “migration-backgrounders” in Germany in 2018. Somewhat more than half of them (1.5 million) were born in Germany.SourceGerman Federal Statistical Office (2019): Findings of the Central Register of Foreign Nationals 2017 Fachserie 1 Reihe 2.2 p. 128 and p. 131
What nationality do they have?
Particulars regarding the nationality of people of Turkish origin can be found in a variety of statistical sources. According to the Micro-Census, in 2018 about 1.4 million ethnic Turks had a German passport, 238,000 have “dual citizenship”. According to the most recent census in 2011, by contrast, just under 530,000 people had both a German and a Turkish passport.
The census figures, based mainly on analyses of residents’ register entries, are probably too high. One of the reasons for this is that the Turkish authorities do not always inform their German counterparts when they have denaturalised a person. The Micro-Census figures, by contrast, which are based on voluntary self-disclosure of the respondees, are probably too low. One reason for this is that the respondees do not always state their second nationality.SourceGerman Federal Statistical Office: Press release from April 10th 2014 and German Federal Statistical Office (2018): Findings of the Central Register of Foreign Nationals 2017 Fachserie 1 Reihe 2.2 p. 166
The Central Register of Foreign Nationals (AZR) records only foreign nationals: around 1.5 million people were thus registered with a Turkish passport in 2018. It is not known how many of the foreigners registered in the AZR also have a German passport. According to the AZR, the number of Turkish nationals in Germany is falling. As stated in the Migration Report, one of the reasons involved is that many of them are leaving the country or taking German citizenship.
Figures for 2018: According to the Federal Statistical Office, in 2018, around 1.58 million people moved to Germany (among them 1.38 million foreign nationals). At the same time, approximately 1.19 million people emigrated. This equates to a positive net migration of 400,000 people.SourceGerman Federal Statistical Office: Report 2018
Figures for 2017: in 2017, around 1.55 million people moved to Germany (1.38 million foreign nationals). Approximately 1.14 million people emigrated. This equates to a positive net migration of 416,000 people.
Figures for 2016: In 2016, 1.87 million foreign nationals moved to Germany, while around 1.37 million emigrated. This equates to a positive net migration of approximately 500,000 persons (see diagram).SourceGerman Federal Office for Migration and Refugees: Migration between Germany and abroad 1991-2018
It is unclear how many of the new arrivals are really “migrants” (i.e. who are coming to Germany only temporarily), and how many are “immigrants” (i.e. staying permanently). The same applies to the departures: will emigration movements be temporary or permanent?
In 2018, the majority of immigrants to Germany were Europeans (about 67 percent). According to the Migration Report, about 53 percent of the 1.58 million new arrivals were EU citizens. Approximately 14 percent of the new arrivals came from Asia, about 4 percent from Africa. Most arrivals in 2018 hold the following nationalities:
- Romanian: 251,971 (departures: 183,827)
- Polish: 143,646 (departures: 123,418)
- Bulgarian: 85,728 (departures: 58,891)
- Croatian: 57,724 (departures: 28,869)
- Italian: 53.348 (departures: 37.799)
SourceFederal Statistical Office, Migration to and from Germany 2018
The number of immigrants from the EU states has been rising for years. In 2017, the number of EU citizens living in Germany increasedso called net migration by around 257,000 people. On the cut-off date of 31 December 2017, there were around 4.7 million EU citizens living in Germany. SourceGerman Federal Office for Migration and Refugees (2018): Freedom of Movement Monitoring Annual Report 2017
41 per cent of all immigrants who moved to Germany in 2017 came from EU states: in this time period, 635,000 EU citizens (excluding German citizens) immigrated.SourceGerman Federal Office for Migration and Refugees (2018): Freedom of Movement Monitoring Annual Report 2017
The principal countries of origin for EU immigrants were in 2017:
- Romania: 179,800 arrivals
- Poland: 118,000
- Bulgaria: 66,900
- Croatia: 50,300SourceGerman Federal Office for Migration and Refugees (2018): Freedom of Movement Monitoring Annual Report 2017
Most of the EU immigrants living in Germany come from:
- Poland: 866,900
- Italy: 643,100
- Romania: 622,800
- Croatia: 367,900SourceGerman Federal Office for Migration and Refugees (2018): Freedom of Movement Monitoring Annual Report 2017
In the immigration debate, the paramount issue at present is the rising numbers of refugees. But in this context one thing is often forgotten: this is not the first time that Germany has experienced increased levels of migration. People have been immigrating to Germany for a very long time. Others leave the country to seek their fortunes elsewhere. The MEDIENDIENST provides an overview of the major migration movements involved.
In Germany’s migration history, there have been different phases of migration, with concomitantly disparate reasons. Germany was seldom an immigration or emigration country exclusively. In the 19th century, emigration to America was the dominant phenomenon, whereas the early 20th century saw large numbers of workers immigrating. The two world wars were characterised by expulsions, deportations and slave labour. The majority of immigrants after the end of the Second World War came
- by means of recruitment agreements as what were called “guest workers” (1955 to 1973),
- through family reunification for foreigners already living in Germany (primarily between 1973 and 1985, but also up to the present day),
- as asylum-seekers (late 1980s and early 1990s),
- as ethnic German repatriates and late repatriates (primarily between 1987 and 1999),
- as citizens of the European Union under the principle of free movement,
- and for the past few years as asylum-seekers again.
18th CENTURY TO 1914 – Emigration to America
The major wave of emigration from the German-speaking regions over the Atlantic began back in 1700 or thereabouts, with most of the emigrants heading for the present-day United States, followed by Canada, Brazil and Argentina. The zenith of "transatlantic mass emigration” (Klaus J. Bade) was reached in the 19th century: from 1816 to 1914, 5.5 million Germans emigrated to the USA. At the end of the century, the German immigrants even constituted the largest foreign population grouping in the USA. The principal reason for emigration was the rapid population growth, which was causing poverty and unemployment. Only around 20 per cent of the emigrants returned home.SourceBade, Klaus J. et al (Hrsg.): Enzyklopädie Migration in Europa. Vom 17. Jahrhundert bis zur Gegenwart. 3. Auflage. 2010. S.146 f.
1890s TO 1918 – Workers for the industrial sector and the wartime economy
The apogee of industrialisation did not begin in the German Empire until towards the end of the 19th century. This meant far more workers were needed: within a few years, the German Empire was thus transformed from an emigration country to the world’s second-most-important immigration country, just behind the USA. What were known as the "Ruhr Poles" emigrated from what was then the Prussian part of Poland to this industrialised region of western Germany, the Ruhr. They were Polish-speaking Prussian citizens, so this was a case of internal migration. But East Prussia, too, became a target for migrant workers from the Russian part of Poland, and from Italy and Austria-Hungary. The foreign Poles, in particular, were here confronted with a nationalistically inspired “exclusion policy”. In 1914, there were 1.2 million foreign migrant workers in the German Empire. In the First World War, foreign workers continued to be recruited. Then there were also 1.5 million prisoners of war, who were drafted for slave labour in Germany.SourceBade, Klaus J. et al (Hrsg.): Enzyklopädie Migration in Europa. Vom 17. Jahrhundert bis zur Gegenwart. 3. Auflage. 2010. S. 149-152.
THE INTER-WAR PERIOD – Russian and Jewish immigrants from Eastern Europe
The Communist revolution and the civil war in the former Tsarist Russia forced about 1.5 million people to flee, among them many aristocrats and entrepreneurs. In the years 1922/23, 600,000 Russian refugees sought protection in the Weimar Republic, more than half of them in Berlin. The majority moved on to Paris or New York. The primary reason involved was a restrictive integration policy, which offered the refugees from Russia neither legal nor financial support for integration. The situation was even more difficult for Jews who had fled from the violent riots in Eastern and South-Eastern Europe. Nonetheless, around 70,000 of them had requested asylum in the Weimar Republic by 1921, before here, too, the antisemitic pogroms became progressively more open and excessive.SourceBade, Klaus J. et al (Hrsg.): Enzyklopädie Migration in Europa. Vom 17. Jahrhundert bis zur Gegenwart. 3. Auflage. 2010. S.154 ff.
1933 TO 1945 – Persecution of Jews and Holocaust under the Nazi regime
The election of Adolf Hitler to the chancellorship de facto ended the rule of law in the Weimar Republic. The Nazi government enacted numerous antisemitic laws in subsequent years. Assaults on Jews and their exclusion from society were tolerated and indeed encouraged. By 1939, 247,000 of the approximately 500,000 Jews had left their German homeland. But more and more nations were no longer prepared to allow Jewish refugees to immigrate. At a conference held at Évian, France, in 1938, the then US President Franklin D. Roosevelt wanted to put global rules in place for accepting them. The representatives of the 32 nations attending, however, were not prepared to grant any protection to refugees – the sole exception was the Dominican Republic. Nonetheless, between 1940 and 1945 another 31,500 Jews succeeded in escaping, most of them to Palestine and to the USA. Between 1940 and 1945, 130,000 Jews were deported from the German Empire to concentration and extermination camps. Only 34,000 survived the Nazi regime in Germany.SourceBade, Klaus J. et al (Hrsg.): Enzyklopädie Migration in Europa. Vom 17. Jahrhundert bis zur Gegenwart. 3. Auflage. 2010. S.155 und Bundeszentrale für politische Bildung, Dossier: Vertreibung und Vernichtung der Juden aus dem Deutschen Reich
2nd WORLD WAR AND THE WAR’S END – Foreign slave labourers and displaced persons
The Nazi regime was able to wage war for so long only because it made use of foreign labour: in 1944, there were around eight million slave labourers and prisoners of war working in the Third Reich. After the war ended, the Allies took ten to twelve million “displaced persons” (DPs) into their care, mainly survivors of the labour, concentration and extermination camps. In the first few post-war months, five million were sent back to their homelands. Repatriating citizens of the Soviet Union proved problematic, since as alleged collaborators they were facing probable persecution upon their return. In 1950, there were still about 150,000 DPs living in reception centres in Germany. They were not, however, given legal equality with German refugees and expellees, and in most cases did not receive any compensation.SourceBade, Klaus J. et al (Hrsg.): Enzyklopädie Migration in Europa. Vom 17. Jahrhundert bis zur Gegenwart. 3. Auflage. 2010. S. 155-157
1945 TO THE PRESENT DAY – Expellees and (late) repatriates
The history of the repatriates begins in the 18th century: around 740,000 Germans moved to the Danube area between 1680 and 1800, to Transylvania, to Russia and as far as the Black Sea. During the First and Second World Wars, too, conquered or occupied territories were settled with Germans. The local population was deported or expelled. At the end of the Second World War, 14 million ethnic Germans fled towards the west. Hundreds of thousands did not survive exodus, expulsion and deportation. In 1950, expellees in West and East Germany numbered 12.5 million. As from 1953, the Federal Expellee Act governed their admission as repatriates, who were entitled to German nationality. With the incipient policy of perestroika and the subsequent collapse of the Soviet Union, the number of repatriates rose. A total of around 4.5 million (late) repatriates have come to Germany since 1950, of whom 3.1 million are still living here.SourceBade, Klaus J. et al (Hrsg.): Enzyklopädie Migration in Europa. Vom 17. Jahrhundert bis zur Gegenwart. 3. Auflage. 2010. S.147, 153, 158. Zudem: Statistisches Bundesamt, Ergebnisse des Mikrozensus 2014, Fachserie 1 Reihe 2.2, S.7
1949 TO 1989 – Inner German migration and "Flight to the West”
Between 1949 and 1961, 2.7 million people crossed the inner-German border towards the west. In order to stop this internal migration, the East German government had a wall built around the “island” of West Berlin in 1961, and sealed off the borders with West Germany. Up to the fall of the Berlin Wall, around 700,000 people nonetheless succeeded in leaving East Germany, by not returning from visits, or being ransomed by the West German government as political prisoners or successfully applying for emigration. In addition, 5,000 East German citizens managed to scale the wall itself, often assisted by escape helpers. At least 138 people were killed at the inner-German border.SourceBade, Klaus J. et al (Hrsg.): Enzyklopädie Migration in Europa. Vom 17. Jahrhundert bis zur Gegenwart. 3. Auflage. 2010. S.159 und Chronik der Mauer, einem Projekt des Zentrums für Zeithistorische Forschung Potsdam e.V., der Bundeszentrale für politische Bildung und des Deutschlandradios.
1955 TO THE FALL OF THE BERLIN WALL IN 1989 – "Guest workers” in West and East Germany
With the massive expansion of foreign trade, West Germany needed more workers than were currently available. The construction of the Berlin Wall put an end to migration from East Germany. As from 1955, West Germany concluded recruitment agreements with Italy, Spain, Turkey and other countries. Of the 14 million so-called guest workers, 11 million returned to their homelands following the recruitment ban of 1973. In particular, however, Turks, Italians and Yugoslavs stayed, and fetched their family members to join them. East Germany, too, had been recruiting foreign workers since the mid-1960s. In 1989, there were 93,600 contract workers living in East Germany. Most of them came from Vietnam (59,000) and Mozambique (15,000).SourceBade, Klaus J. et al (Hrsg.): Enzyklopädie Migration in Europa. Vom 17. Jahrhundert bis zur Gegenwart. 3. Auflage. 2010. S.159 ff. und "Dableiben oder ausreisen?", Publikation des Bundesbeauftragten für die Unterlagen des Staatssicherheitsdienstes der ehemaligen Deutschen Demokratischen Republik, S. 20, Forschungsprojekt der Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin, "Migration in die DDR (und BRD)"
1990s – Asylum-seekers in reunited Germany
Since the end of the 1980s, the number of asylum-seekers in West Germany had been rising. After the Berlin Wall had fallen, they reached a new high: in 1992, 438,191 people applied for asylum, almost three-quarters of them from Eastern and Southern Europe. The principal categories involved were civil war refugees from Yugoslavia and Roma from Romania and Bulgaria. This was followed by a severely polarised public debate on the asylum issue, accompanied by violent incidents like the arson attacks in Rostock Lichtenhagen (1992), Mölln (1992) and Solingen (1993) on asylum-seekers’ accommodation centres and immigrants’ homes. In 1993, what was called the Asylum Compromise was approved by parliament. The number of asylum-seekers fell substantially, and by 2008 had reached a low of 28,000. Of the refugees from Yugoslavia, only a few settled permanently in Germany: the reasons involved were a proactive repatriation and a stringently draconian deportation policy, plus the option of emigrating to other host countries. For instance, the number of Bosnians in Germany fell from 350,000 (1996) to around 20,000 (2001) persons.SourceDossier der Bundeszentrale für politische Bildung "Flucht und Asyl seit 1990" und BAMF, Das Bundesamt in Zahlen 2014, S. 11
PRESENT DAY – EU free movement and rising numbers of refugees
Since 2006, the number of immigrants to Germany has been rising again, with most of them coming from member states of the European Union. The free movement enables them to enter Germany without a visa and work here. According to the latest Migration Report, in 2013 around 1.2 million people came to Germany, 708,000 of them from EU states. Poland, Italy and Romania were the principal countries of origin involved. Net migration, however, i.e. inward minus outward migration flows, was running at a mere 429,000 arrivals, since emigration from Germany is also rising. The immigrants from non-member countries primarily included people who came to Germany for education and work (24 per cent), within the context of family reunification (15 per cent) or for humanitarian reasons (29 per cent). After the number of asylum-seekers was running at 220,000 in 2014, it soared to approximately 890,000 people in 2015 – most of them coming from war-torn Syria. Since April 2016 the number of asylum-seekers reaching Germany has decreased considerably. Between 2015 and 2017 approximately 1.3 Million asylum-seekers have entered the country – and about half of them have gained protection.SourceMigrationsbericht 2013, BAMF und BAMF, Das Bundesamt in Zahlen 2014, S. 11
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