Over the centuries, Germany has been shaped by various migration movements and is now largely considered an "immigration country". In this section, you will find key facts, figures and reports on refugees and migration in Germany and beyond.
Since the Russian invasion in Ukraine, millions were forced to flee their homes. Where are they going to? Who is fleeing from Ukraine? And how is the refugees' situation in Germany? We present here the most relevant facts and figures.
updated once a week; last update: 2 March, 2023
According to the German Federal Ministry for the Interior, 1,072,248 war refugees from Ukraine have been registered (as of 2 March). Around 96 per cent are Ukrainian nationals. 778,799 refugees from Ukraine have receivedNote: This figure only includes persons above the age of fourteen. temporary protection status along §24 AufenthG, the German legislative implementation of the EU's Temporary Mass Protection Directive.SourceFederal Foreign Nationals' Registry (AZR), as per inquiry to Federal Ministry of Internal Affairs
As Ukrainian citizens can enter the European Union without a visa and move freely between EU member states in the Schengen Area, it is hard to say how many refugees have actually arrived and continue to stay in the country.
Who are the Ukrainian refugees?
Of the adult refugees from Ukraine, around 69 percent are women and 31 percent are men. Around 360,000 of the refugees from Ukraine registered in the AZR are children and young people under the age of 18.SourceFederal Ministry of Internal Affairs, response to MEDIENDIENST press inquiry, 2 March.
Where do they live?
Almost three quarters of all refugees from Ukraine live in private flats and houses - as findings of the study 'Refugees from Ukraine in Germany' indicate (December 2022). Around 25 per cent of them live with relatives or friends who had already lived in Germany prior to 24 February 2022. 17 per cent of the refugees live in hotels or guest houses. Only 9 per cent live in communal accommodation for refugees.SourceInstitute for Employment Research (IAB) IAB-BiB/FReDA-BAMF-SOEP (December 2022), 'Geflüchtete aus der Ukraine in Deutschland Flucht, Ankunft und Leben', p. 8.
According to the Central Register of Foreigners (AZR), most war refugees from Ukraine live in the following federal states (figures rounded, as of November 2022).
- North Rhine-Westphalia: 219,000
- Bavaria: 149,000 people
- Baden-Wuerttemberg: 131,000
- Lower Saxony: 109,000
- Hesse: 80,000
Note: The number of refugees from Ukraine registered differs state by state. While some states refer to data from the Central Register of Foreigners, others take into account the number of people registered in reception centres. In both cases, these are approximations, as it is not known how many refugees may have already moved on.
Several million people have fled from and within Ukraine since the Russian invasion. The key figures:
- 4,890,639 (as of 07 March) people have received international protection in Europe, such as through the EU's Temporary Mass Protection Directive or comparable national protection schemes (such as the Swiss 'Status S').
- 8,108,448 refugees from Ukraine have been preliminarily recorded across different countries in Europe (as of 07 March)
- The IOM estimatesSince May, the IOM reports IDP figures monthly at the end of each month. the number of Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) at roughly 5.9 million people (latest update: 5 December). In May, the number of IDPs was over 7,100,000. The IOM estimates that more refugees are returning to their homes.
- 5,236,000 war refugees are estimated to have returned to their homes, according to the IOM (as of 5 December).SourceIOM (2022) Ukraine - Internal Displacement Report - General Population Survey
As of 10 March, the number of people from Ukraine who received temporary protection in neighbouring and other countries was:
SOURCE: The UNHCR updates the number of refugees on a weekly basis on this website, which lists a longer list of other countries. Furthermore, some countries' ministries of internal affairs - Switzerland, Italy, or the Czech Republic – regularly announce the figures via twitter.
Other countries where many refugees from Ukraine fled to:
- Italy: 171,739 (temporarily registered refugees, last update: 24/02)
- UK: 164,500 (temporarily registered refugees, last update: 27/02)
- Spain: 168,654 (temporarily registered refugees, last update: 26/02)SourceUNHCR: 'Ukraine Refugee Situation'.
NOTE ON DATA: As many refugees initially cross the border to one country and then travel to another (e.g. from the Republic of Moldova to Romania), this can result in data duplications or delays. Beyond this, Ukrainian citizens can travel visa free across the Schengen area. SourceUNHCR, Upon request of MEDIENDIENST INTEGRATION, 24 March.
Rights of Ukrainian refugees in European countries: In early March, EU countries agreed on enacting the Temporary Protection Directive from 2001 in response to the the large number of arrivals from Ukraine. The European Council on Refugees and Exiles (ECRE) compiled an overview on how EU countries are implementing these measures. The Polish Legal Aid Center Halina Niec published an explainer to Polands legal measures in response to the large number of Ukrainians entering the country.
Since the onset of the war in Ukraine, 359,064 children and youth under the age of 18 were recorded in Germany's Foreign Nationals' Registry (AZR) (last update: 2 March). Most of them are at primary school age (6-11 years).SourceFederal Ministry of Internal Affairs, upon MEDIENDIENST request on 2 March; own calculations.
Roughly 202,000 children and youth from Ukraine have thus far joined schools in Germany (last update: 18 December).SourceStanding Conference of the Ministers of Education and Cultural Affairs of the Länder 'Refugee Children and Youth'.
Approximately two million children had to leave their homes due to the war, UNICEF says. Half of all refugees from Ukraine might be children.SourceUNICEF, Press release "Two million refugee children flee war in Ukraine in search of safety across borders" (30.3.2022)
11 out of 16 federal states plan to introduce so called welcome classes for refugee children from Ukraine, a survey by MEDIENDIENST shows. Pupils are taught mainly in separated classes but participate for instance in sport or music classes with other pupils. Two states plan to install classes entirely separated from the regular ones. Other federal states have different models, some teach refugee children from Ukraine in regular classes and provide for additional German courses.Source(2022): "Bundesländer richten Willkommensklassen ein", LINK
Pupils who weren't able to graduate due to war are allowed to apply for university.
Many Third Country Nationals (TCNs) who were based in Ukraine prior to 24 February 2022, had to seek refuge abroad as a result of Russia's invasion. According to IOM estimates, 592,000 TCNs have fled Ukraine as of 28 December 2022.
Just about 38,000 TCNs have been preliminarily recorded in Germany as of 2 March.SourceFederal Foreign Nationals' Registry (AZR), German Ministry of Internal Affairs, own calculations.
Unlike Ukrainian citizens, TCNs are only eligible for the EU's Temporary Protection Directive provided that they had permanent residency permits in Ukraine and presently are unable to safely return to their home countries. In 2020When the latest IOM survey was conducted, the IOM estimated the number of foreign citizens with permanent residency permits in Ukraine at around 293,000. Additionally, roughly 150,000 TCNs held temporary residence permits, around half of which were international students – primarily from India (23.6 per cent), Morocco (11.5 per cent), Turkmenistan und Azerbaijan (seven and six percent) as well as Nigeria (five percent).SourceIOM (2021) Migration in Ukraine Facts and Figures 2021
In 2021, around 4,900 TCNs in Ukraine were refugees and asylum seekers, most of which came from Afghanistan and Syria, according to UNHCR. Migration researcher Frank Düvell, however, estimates that the number of refugees in Ukraine might have been much higher: Around 20,000 Afghan refugees are estimated to have fled to Ukraine since the 1980s.SourceUNHCR (March 2021) Refugees and Asylum Seekers in Ukraine, p. 2.
Around 331,000 personsStatistisches Bundesamt (2021), Bevölkerung und Erwerbstätigkeit Bevölkerung mit Migrationshintergund - Ergebnisse des Mikrozensus 2020, Seite 58 with an ukrainian "migrant 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." lived in Germany before the war. More than half of them are German citizens (196,000), the other have the Ukrainian citizenship (135,000). Around 10 percent compare Jannis Panagiotidis (2021), Postsowjetische Migration in Deutschland, Seite 2 of all migrants or migrants' decendants from Post-Sovjet states in Germany are from Ukraine.SourceStatistisches Bundesamt (2021): Bevölkerungsfortschreibung laut Genesis-Datenbank, Link
In fact, up to 250,000 Ukrainian citizens might have lived in Germany before the war, migration researcher Franck Düvell estimates, since many persons from Ukraine commuted without needing a visa.
Since the Russian invasion in the Crimean Peninsula, many Ukrainians left their country, and more persons migratedStatistisches Bundesamt (2021), Wanderungsstatistik 2012-2020 to Germany.
Before the war, most Ukrainians lived in Berlin (13,000) and Munich (7,300), and in cities in southern and western Germany. Most Ukrainians who arrived before the war had a permanent AufenthaltstitelStatistisches Bundesamt (2021), Bevölkerung und Erwerbstätigkeit Ausländische Bevölkerung – Ergebnisse des Ausländerzentralregisters, Seite 126 ff resident permit. Only few Ukrainians applied for asylum before the war, and only few received a protection. SourceBAMF, Asylgeschäftsstatistiken 2017-2021
The legal situation for people who have fled Ukraine are different depending on refugees' nationalities:
- Ukrainian citizens can enter Germany legally and stay here for 90 days (Appendix II of EU Directive 2018/1806).
- After those 90 days, they can prolong their stay for another 90 days (§ 40 AufenthV)
- Due to the activation of the EU mass influx directive, Ukrainian citizens can now get a temporary protection status. In German law, this is a residence permit according to § 24 AufenthG. This residence permit allows Ukrainian citizens to work, go to school, receive social and health care and financial assistance for housing. (EU: Coucil Implementing Decision introducing temporary protection, EUR-LEX: Directive 2001/55/EG).
- Non-Ukrainian citizens would normally need some kind of Visa or residence permit in order to enter Germany legally (§ 4 AufenthG)
- However, the German interior ministry has passed a directive which allows Non-Ukrainian citizens who have fled Ukraine to enter Germany and stay legally until August 31, 2022 (Bundesanzeiger: BMI - UkraineAufenthÜV (erste Verordnung), Verlängerung der Verordnung (zweite Verordnung))
- In order to stay in Germany after August 2022, non-Ukrainian citizens will need to obtain a residence permit. Those who have Ukrainian relatives are entitled to receive a residence permit according to 24 AufenthG (that is, according to the EU mass influx directive). This also applies to people who were recognized refugees in Ukraine. For all other people – such as African students who lived in Ukraine – the legal situation is more complex: Those who cannot safely return to their country of origin are also entitled to the § 24 AufenthG residence permit. Those who can return safely, must return, unless they manage to obtain some other kind of residence permit in Germany, such as a working or studying residence. (Art. 2, 2 Council Implementation Decision 2022/382, BMI: Rundschreiben zur Umsetzung der "EU-Massenzustrom-Richtlinie")
- In 2021, 190,816 asylum application were submitted, 148,233 of which were first-time applications. This constitutes an increase of 56.2 compared to 2020, when the number of applications was lower due to COVID-19.
- The German Federal Office for Migration and Refugees (BAMF) ruled on 149,954 cases during this period. The overall protection rateThe protection rate (in German: "Schutzquote") is an administrative term for the percentage of asylum applications that receive a positive ruling. This includes all rulings granting asylum, refugee status, or subsidiary protection as well as non-refoulement cases. Public authorities and the Federal Government use this rate to categorise states according their citizens’ prospect is of staying (in German: "Bleibeperspektive") is. was 39.9 per centThis includes persons entitled to asylum under Art.16 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..Source:Federal Office for Migration and Refugees (BAMF) 'Current Figures', 12/2022 p. 3 f
- Asylum applicants predominantly came from:
- Syria: 70,162 applications (protection rate: 62.6 per cent)
- Afghanistan: 31,721 (protection rate: 42.9 per cent)
- Iraq: 16.872 (protection rate: 31.9 per cent)
- In 2020, there were 122,170 asylum applications, of which 102,581 were first-time applications. This corresponds to a two per cent increase compared to the same time period in 2019.
- Approximately one fifth of the applications were children of refugees who were born in Germany.
- The three main countries of origin were Syria, Afghanistan and Iraq.
- The German Federal Office for Migration and Refugees (BAMF) ruled on 145,071 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 43.1 per centThis 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 12/2020, Federal Office for Migration and Refugees (BAMF)
As of 31 December 2020, 1,860,000 million people seeking protection were living in Germany, according to a special report by the National Registry of Foreign Citizens (AZR). This figure includes those with pending decisions on their asylum applications, as well as people who had their applications rejected. Of these, roughly 1.4 million people do have some level of refugee protection status lived in Germany.SourceFederal Office for Statistics (2021) Bevölkerung und Erwerbstätigkeit Schutzsuchende Ergebnisse des Ausländerzentralregisters
According to the Federal Ministry of the Interior 1.4 million people with some level of refugee protection status lived in Germany 2021. Around one-third of them were minors (31 per cent) and approx. one in four has been living in Germany for more than six years.SourceFederal Parliament (2022), 20/1048, p. 3 ff, own calculations.
The four main groups in asylum statistics are:
- 43,684 persons entitled to asylum according to Article 16a of Germany’s Fundamental Law.
- 760,918 refugees under the Geneva Convention, most of whom arrived from Syria or Iraq within the past five years.
- 255,671 beneficiaries of subsidiary protection. The majority came from Syria and Iraq and arrived in Germany after 2015.
- 136,156 people who cannot be deported due to the UN Convention against Torture – mostly from Afghanistan.SourceFederal Parliament (2022), 20/1048 p. 3 ff, own calculations.
In addition, the German law offers several other pathways to receiving protection. Of the 1.4 million (figures rounded):
- 22,000 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 period and come from the former Soviet Union.
- 5,400 have been granted temporary residence for "pressing humanitarian or personal reasons" (AufenthG §25 paragraph 5).
- 19,300 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.
- 37,600 foreigners are obliged to leave the country, but their departure has not been possible "for legal or factual reasons" for more than 18 months (AufenthG §25 paragraph 4). Most are rejected asylum seekers.SourceFederal Statistical Office (2021): People seeking protection, results of the Central Registry of Foreigners, p. 173.
Beyond these 1.4 million persons with a formalised protection status in Germany, 215,841 have either pending asylum applications or are in ongoing appeal proceedings against decisions on their applications. Furthermore, 186,640 rejected asylum seekers live in Germany as so-called 'Geduldete' ('tolerated persons').SourceFederal Parliament (2021), 20/1048 p. 33 ff; 57, own calculations.
The number of foreign nationals, (i.e. residents without German nationality) varies depending on the survey concerned:
- According to the micro census, 10.6 million foreign nationals were living in Germany in 2021. This constitutes a new peak. SourceGerman Federal Statistical Office (2022): 'Population data according to migration status and other characteristics', p. 38.
- According to the Central Register of Foreign Nationals (AZR), around 11.4 million foreign nationals were living in Germany by the end of 2020. This constitutes an increase by 1.8 per cent during 2020 (i.e. 204,000 people). SourceGerman Federal Statistical Office (2021):Press Release: "Foreign population grew by 1.8 percent in 2020", link and own calculation based on the Genesis database"
- The Population Projection predicted that around 10.6 million foreign nationals would live in Germany by the end of 2020. In contrast to the AZR, the Population Projection is based on the 2011 Census, the most up-to-date population census in Germany.Source Federal Statistical Office (2021): Foreign population Results of the Central Register of Foreigners
Which of these figures is the most reliable cannot be stated with certainty. Experts suspect that the AZR figures are too high. This is because the AZR was last "adjusted" in 2004, i.e. reconciled with the data of the regional foreigners’ registration offices ("Ausländerbehörden"). At the time, the number of foreign nationals had to be adjusted for error and was significantly lowered. In addition, the AZR was not offset against data from the 2011 Census "for technical and legal reasons", as the Federal Statistical Office explains.
In 2021, there were around 22.3 million people with a so-called "migration background" (See definition below). This corresponds to 27.2 per cent of the overall population of Germany. In 2020, their proportion was at 26.7 per cent.Source: Federal Statistical Office (2022): Population with a migration background - results of the 2021 microcensus, p. 39f.
- The majority, around 11.8 million, are German passport-holders.
- Around 10.6 million are foreigners.
- Around 14 million have "lived migration experience"Source: Federal Statistical Office (2022): Population with a migration background - results of the 2021 microcensus, p. 39f.
MIGRANTS AND THEIR DESCENDANTS IN GERMANY'S OFFICIAL STATISTICS
What is: "migration background" ("Migrationshintergrund")?
In 2005, the Federal Statistical Office established the category "migration background" in its microcensus (population survey published annually). Since then, the category has become a widely used indicator for the integration of migrants and their descendants in population statistics and research in Germany: For example, to measure participation in education, the labour market or political representation.
Who is considered to have a migration background:
- Foreign-born foreign citizens. This also includes children that were born abroad with foreign citizenship and adopted by German citizens. German citizens born abroad, on the other hand, are not considered to have a migration background.
- Descendants of at least one parent with foreign citizenship. This is irrespective of when the parent moved to Germany or if they had lived there since infancy.
- Foreign citizens born in Germany.SourceFederal Statistics Office (2022) "Migrationshintergrund"; MEDIENDIENST INTEGRATION (2021) "Migrationshintergrund einfach erklärt"; MEDIENDIENSTINTEGRATION (2020) "Wer hat einen Migrationshintergrund"
When it was introduced, the "migration background" replaced the hitherto common "foreigner" ("Ausländer") in the microsensus, which had been critisised by many as stigmatising and exclusionary. However, the term "migration background" soon faced increasing criticism, too: Some argued it was not a helpful indicator as it grouped too many different people and experiences together (e.g. recent immigrants as well as people with only marginal international ties). Others argued it did not reflect discrimination, as ethnic minorities such as German BPOC, the Roma or the Jewish population, who have often held German citizenship for several generations, are not measured.
Migrants and their descendants ("Einwanderer und ihre Nachkommen")
In April 2022, the German Federal Statistics Office announced it would introduce "immigrants and their descendants" as an additional category in population statistics. This decision was based on a recommendation by the Expert Commission on the framework conditions for integration capability ("Fachkommission Integrationsfähigkeit") from early 2021. The new category will measure:
- Foreign citizens who immigrated to Germany (regardless of current nationality)
- Germans or foreign citizens – if both parents immigrated to Germany as foreign nationals
While, according to the Federal Statistics Office, "migration background" will continue to appear in micro-census surveys for some years to come, it is expected that the category will eventually be phased out.SourceMEDIENDIENST INTEGRATION (2022) "Ciao, Migrationshintergrund?", April.
Of the 22.3 million persons in 2021 who had a so-called "migration background" (for definition see above):
- 12.3 per cent had a Turkish migration background (around 2.75 million),
- 9.8 per cent had a Polish migration background (around 2.2 million),
- 5.8 per cent had ties to the Russian Federation (around 1.3 million).SourceGerman Federal Statistical Office (2020): Findings of the Micro-Census 2020 p. 65
Overall, the majority of the 14 million people who immigrated to Germany came from Europe: around 64.7 per cent came from European countries (including Turkey). Of these, around 36.5 per cent came from EU-member states.SourceGerman Federal Statistical Office (2022): Findings of the Central Register of Foreign Nationals 2022, p. 101
About 2.7 million "Ethnic Germans" from Eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union – referred to as repatriates and late repatriates – live in the Federal Republic of Germany. They constitute the second largest migrant community. According to the definition by the Federal Ministry of the Interior, repatriates and late repatriates 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 (2022): Findings of the Central Registry of Foreign Nationals 2021, p. 7.
Since the early post-war years, repatriates and late repatriates 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 with their families. They were able to enjoy full civil rights in Germany, which they were entitled to under the German Constitution Article 116. Aside from repatriates from Russia, most late repatriates arrived in Germany following the collapse of the Soviet Union from the Republic of Kazakhstan (575,000), where the Stalinist regime had banished the “Russian-Germans” to during the wartime years.SourceGerman Federal Office for Migration and Refugees (2013): (Late) Repatriates in Germany, p. 38
In 2021, around 2.75 million people with ancestral ties to Turkey were living in Germany. They are Germany's largest grouping of “migration-backgrounders” (see a detailed definition above).SourceGerman Federal Statistical Office (2022): Population and Occupation - Population with a migrant background, Findings of the Micro-Census 2021, p. 65
Various official figures exist on the nationality of people of Turkish origin in Germany. According to the 2021 mirco census, about 1.4 million ethnic Turks had a German passport, 285,000 hold dual citizenship. SourceGerman Federal Statistical Office upon request by MEDIENDIENST;
The census figures, based mainly on analyses of residents’ registry entries, are likely too high. This can partially be explained by Turkish authorities not always informing their German counterparts when they denaturalise a former national. By contrast, the micro census figures are based on voluntary self-identification of the respondents. They are likely too low, as respondents do not always disclose their second nationality.
The Central Registry of Foreign Nationals (AZR) records only foreign nationals: around 1.5 million people were registered with a Turkish passport in 2020. It is not clear how many foreigners registered in the AZR also hold a German passport. According to the AZR, the number of Turkish nationals in Germany is declining. As stated in the Migration Report, this is partly due to many either leaving Germany or acquiring German citizenship.
Germany’s residents with a 'migration background'For definition and context, see above. are significantly younger than Germans without migration history: In 2021, their average age was 35.6, compared to 46.9 years of Germans without international family ties.SourceFederal Office for Statistics (2022): Population with a migration background - Findings of the micro census 2021, p. 68.
In terms of gender ratio, differences are negligible: In 2021, 51 per cent of the country's population were women; among those with migration background, women made up 49.2 per cent.SourceFederal Office for Statistics (2022): Population with a migration background - Findings of the micro census 2021, p. 38.
Figures for 2021: According to the Federal Statistical Office, around 1.3 million people moved to Germany in 2021, 1.1 million of which were foreign nationals. Roughly one million people emigrated during the same period, resulting in a net migration of around 316,500 for 2021. This constitutes an increase of 44 per cent compared to 2020.SourceGerman Federal Statisics office (2022) Immigration and Emigration Report 1991-2021.
Figures for 2020: 1.2 million people moved to Germany in 2020 (around 995,000 were foreign nationals), while 966,000 people emigrated. The net migration was 220,300 people. Net migration to Germany has been decreasing for five years.SourceGerman Federal Statistical Office (2021) Report 2020
Figures for 2019: In 2019, around 1.59 million people moved to Germany (1.34 million were foreign nationals) and 1.23 million people emigrated. Net migration was at 327,000.SourceGerman Federal Statistical Office: Report 2019
Figures for 2018: 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
NOTE: It is unclear how many new arrivals are real "immigrants" (i.e. stay in Germany permanently), as the data does not take account the duration of their stay in Germany. The same applies to emigration data.
In 2020, the majority of immigrating to Germany came from other European countries (about 63 per cent). About 50 per cent of the new arrivals moved to Germany from a EU country. Approximately 13 per cent of new arrivals came from Asia, about four per cent from Africa and three per cent from the United States. SourceFederal Statistical Office (2021), Report: Immigration and Emigration, Calculations by MEDIENDIENST
Most arrivals in 2020 held the following nationalities:
Around 594,000 EU citizens immigrated to Germany in 2019. This corresponds to 40 per cent of all immigration to Germany. Compared to 2018, the number of EU citizens moving to Germany in 2019 was about 6.5 per cent lower. Most EU immigrants came from Romania (188,091), Poland (101,467) and Bulgaria (68,815).SourceFederal Office for Migration and Refugees (2020): Free Movement Monitoring 2019.
Immigrants from EU countries and their children make up a large proportion of the people with a migration backgroundAnyone who does not have a German citizenship by birth or has at least one parent with whom this is the case, has a "migration background". Source: Federal Statistical Office, micro-census in Germany: Of the more than 21 million people with a migration background living in Germany in 2019, around 7.5 million had ties to a member state of the European Union.SourceFederal Statistical Office (2020), results of the 2019 micro-census, page 68
Of the people with an EU migration background, most have ties to:
- Poland: Around 2.2 million people in Germany have a Polish migration background. After people with family ties to Turkey (almost 2.8 million), they form the second largest group in Germany.
- Romania: 1,018,000
- Italy: 873,000
- Greece: 453,000
- Croatia: 416,000
- Austria: 342,000
- Bulgaria: 312,000
- Spain: 210,000
- The Netherlands: 193,000
- France: 192,000
- Portugal: 166,000.SourceFederal Statistical Office (2020): "Results of the micro-census 2019", page 68
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
In 2021, about eight million adults in Germany had a so-called ‘migration backgroundA person is considered to have a migration background if they have German citizenship but weren't born in Germany or one of their parents is a foreign citizen; for a more detailed definition see above’ and could cast their votes in federal elections. These figures are based on the 2021 micro census. Voters with a migration background accounted for 14 per cent of all eligible voters in the most recent German Parliament (Bundestag) elections in 2021. At the 2017 national elections, this figure was 10.2 per cent.SourceFederal Statistical Office (2022): "Population and employment. Results of the 2021 microcensus (first results), p. 68; SVR (2018): "CDU and CSU the most popular parties among immigrants for the first time", press release from September 27, 2018; Federal Election Commissioner: Press release of August 13, 2013
The proportion of voters with a migration background varies across regions: In states such as Bremen, Baden-Württemberg or Hesse, their proportion in 2019 was at around 17 per cent. In former East German states, their proportion was between 2.5 and 4.2 per cent.SourceIntegration Ministers' Conference (2021): "Integration Monitoring of the Federal States", p. 22.
Who is not eligible to vote in Germany?
In 2021, roughly 12.6 per cent (8.7 million) of adults in Germany were not eligible to vote, as they did not have German citizenship. This includes citizens from EU-member states as well as Third Country Nationals (TCNs):SourceExpert Council on Migration and Integration (SVR)(2021) "SVR Annual Report: Normalfall Diversität? Wie das Einwanderungsland Deutschland mit Vielfalt umgeht", p. 36 f.
- EU-nationals who permanently live in Germany can vote in municipal and EU-elections, but are not eligible to vote in German state-level or national elections. This applies to around 44 per cent of foreign nationals (3.8 million people).SourceExpert Council on Migration and Integration (SVR)(2021) "SVR Annual Report: Normalfall Diversität? Wie das Einwanderungsland Deutschland mit Vielfalt umgeht", p. 36 f.; Federal Statistics Office: Upon request by MEDIENDIENST INTEGRATION
- TCNs are not eligible to vote in any elections. In order to vote, the roughly five million TCNsAs of 31 July 2021 would have to get naturalised in Germany.SourceArticle "Ausländerwahlsrecht" on the website of the Federal Ministry of the Interior; Federal Statistical Office (March 2021), at the request of MEDIENDIENST
For a long time, people with a migration backgroundFor a definition, see: How many "people with a migration background' live in Germany" were considered to have special party affiliations, depending on their own or their ancestors' countries of origin: Former so-called guest workersSee also: Historical Overview: What migration movements have shaped Germany? (from Turkey, former Yugoslavia, Portugal, Italy, Spain and Greece) and their descendants were said to lean towards the centre-left SPD. (Late) repatriatesSee also: Repatriates and late repatriates from the former Soviet Union, on the other hand, were considered more inclined towards the centre-right CDU/CSU.SourceKroh; Tucci (2009) "Parteibindungen von Migranten: Parteien brauchen erleichterte Einbürgerung nicht zu fürchten", DIW, S. 1.
Recent studies indicate that these party affiliations are at least partially dissolving. An overview of research from recent years:
A research team from the University of Duisburg-Essen, Bamberg and Düsseldorf analysed electoral behaviour of Duisburg inhabitants with migration background in the 2021 national elections. The results illustrated: Voting behaviour of people with migration history does not significantly differ from that of the majority population without migration background.
The researchers conducted around 1,500 interviews across four groups: People with Turkish origins, (late) repatriates, Germans with migration history, as well as Germans with no international roots. The SPD fared strongest among the electorate with Turkish roots (39 per cent) and (late) repatriates (30 per cent).SourceUniversity of Duisburg-Essen (2022): Wählerinnen und Wähler mit Einwanderungsgeschichte im Bundestagswahlkampf, p. 3; E. Goerres, D. Spies, S.J. Mayer (2018): Deutsche mit Migrationshintergrund bei der Bundestagswahl 2017. Erste Auswertung der Immigrant German Election Study zu Deutschtürken und Russlanddeutschen.
Following the 2017 national elections, the University of Duisburg-Essen and the University of Cologne interviewed around 500 people of Turkish origin and 500 (late) repatriates. The surveyErste Auswertung der Immigrant German Election Study, E. Goerres, D. Spies, S.J. Mayer, Deutsche mit Migrationshintergrund bei der Bundestagswahl 2017, March 2018, p. 6-7 found that the centre-left SPD was the most popular party among German Turks, at 35 per cent. Almost one third of (late) repatriates, on the other hand, voted for the centre-right CDU/CSU (see graph).SourceE. Goerres, D. Spies, S.J. Mayer (2018): Deutsche mit Migrationshintergrund bei der Bundestagswahl 2017. Erste Auswertung der Immigrant German Election Study zu Deutschtürken und Russlanddeutschen
The survey also shows significant differences in the voting behavior of German Turks and (late) repatriates from the former Soviet Union based on whether they held dual citizenship. For example, 24 per cent of German Turks who solely held German citizenship voted for the CDU/CSU. By contrast, only two per cent of German Turks with dual citizenship voted for the CDU/CSU. Almost one quarter of (late) repatriates with dual citizenship voted for the right-wing "Alternative for Germany" compared to 14 per cent of (late) repatriates with only German citizenship.
According to a larger study by the Expert Council on Migration and Integration (SVR), for the first time, the CDU/CSU were the most popular party among people with a migration background, at 43.2 per cent. In comparison, the Social Democrats received 25 per cent approval. The Green Party and the leftist "Linke" reached around ten per cent respectively; The liberal FDP and the right-wing populist AfD were at around five per cent each. More than 9,000 people (with and without German citizenship) were interviewed for the study between July 2017 and January 2018 and asked "Which party do you currently like best?"SourceSVR-Forschungsbereich (2018): "Parteipräferenzen von Zuwanderinnen und Zuwanderern: Abschied von alten Mustern", S. 1 f.
According to the authors of the study, voter preferences of those in Germany with and without a migration background were similar with regard to the mainstream CDU/CSU and SPD parties.
Measured by their proportion of the population (27.2 per cent in 2021), people with a so-called ‘migration backgroundFor definition and context, see above’ are underrepresented in parliaments across the local level, state level and national level in Germany.SourceFederal Office for StatisticsPressrelease from 1 October 2021; Federal Office for Statistics (2022) Population with Migration Background, p. 39. f.
BUNDESTAG (Federal Parliament, national level):
MEDIENDIENST research from 2021 revealed that at least 83 out of 735 Members of Parliament (MPs) in the Bundestag have a migration background, amounting to 11.3 per cent.
A closer analysis of parties' shows: The Left party has the highest proportion of members with a migration background, the CDU/CSU the lowest:
- 28.2 per cent: The Left
- 14.4 per cent: The Greens
- 17 per cent: The SPD
- 7.2 per cent: The AfD
- 5.4 per cent: The FDP
- 4.1 per cent: The CDU/CSU
LANDTAGE (State-level Parliaments):
To varying degrees, MPs with a migration background are underrepresented in parliaments on state levels across the country, as data for 2015 illustrates. More recent data is only available for some states (see below). MPs with a migration background made up an average of only 4.5 per cent of state parliaments in 2015. In 2005, it was a mere 1.4 per cent.SourceInnenministerkonferenz (2019): "Integrationsmonitoring der Länder", S. 114f.
North Rhine-Westphalia (NRW), 2022
With close to 18 million inhabitants, North Rhine-Westphalia is the most populous of Germany's 16 Federal States. It also the state with the highest number of people with a migration background. After its 2022 state-level parliamentary elections, 17 out of 195 newly elected MPs had a migration background, as research by MEDIENDIENST INTEGRATION shows. This amounts to 8.7 per cent of NRW-MPs, while the proportion of people with migration background in the state's overall population is at almost 32 per cent.SourceFederal Office for Statistics (2022) 'Population with Migration Background', p. 5; p. 43; MEDIENDIENST INTEGRATION (2022) 'Migration and Integration in NRW.; MEDIENDIENST INTEGRATION (2022) '17 Abgeordnete mit Migrationshintergrund'.
Turkey, Syria and Poland were the main countries of origin for NRW’s inhabitants with international family ties. Of those in NRW with a migration background, almost one-third arrived between 1956 and 1989. Furthermore, 44 per cent are foreign nationals - i.e. not eligible for public office.SourceFederal Office for Statistics(2022): Population and employment, Foreign nationals registry 2021; Integrationsmonitoring of federal states (2021), table 2.
KOMMUNALE PARLAMENTE (Local Parliaments):
No up-to-date research exists on the proportion of elected officials with a migration background in municipalities. The most recent study on the subject was conducted by the Max Planck Institute between 2006 and 2011. According to the study across Germany's then largest 77 cities, four per cent of city council members had a migration background.SourceMax-Planck-Institut zur Erforschung multireligiöser und multiethnischer Gesellschaften (2011): "Vielfalt sucht Rat", S. 23
Only four out of 337 mayorsOur research focussed on the term "Oberbürgermeister" i.e. mayors of major cities. The majority of Germans cities and towns use this term. in Germany (1.2 per cent) have a ‘migration backgroundFor the official definition and context, see above’, according to research by MEDIENDIENST INTEGRATION from March 2022. In the overall population, the proportion of people with a migration background is 27.2 per cent.SourceMEDIENDIENST INTEGRATION (2022) 'Hardly mayors with migration background', April. Based on queries of the MEDIENDIENST INTEGRATION to the regional sections of the parties backing local mayors as well as research press-offices of the mayors; own research on mayors' online profiles. Please refer to "Liste der deutschen Oberbürgermeister" (Wikipedia, May 2022).
One mayor exclusively has Danish citizenship: Claus Ruhe Madsen, Lord Mayor of Rostock (independent), in office since 2019. No women mayors with a migration background currently hold office in Germany.
In 2020, when MEDIENDIENST conducted the research for the first time, six German mayors had a migration background (Two per cent).SourceMEDIENDIENST (2020) 'Only two percent have migration background'.
People with a ‘migration background’ are underrepresented in German editors' offices.
A 2020 poll of editors-in-chief across Germany’s largest 126 media outlets showed that just six per cent of editors-in-chief have a ‘migration background’ – and they all come from countries neighboring Germany or within the EU. Compared to their proportion among the overall population of 25.5 per cent at the time, people with migration background are vastly underrepresented. SourceNeue Deutsche Medienmacher (May 2020), Viel Wille, kein Weg, Page 3
Older surveys on newsroom diversity show:
- No more than four to five per cent of journalists in Germany have a migration background, according to a non-representative study from 2016.SourcePöttker, Horst; Kiesewetter, Christina; Lofink, Juliana (Hrsg.): Migranten als Journalisten? Eine Studie zu Berufsperspektiven in der Einwanderungsgesellschaft, Wiesbaden 2016, p. 15
- A 2009 representative study showed only one per cent of journalists at German daily newspapers have a migration background.SourceGeißler, Rainer; Enders, Kristina; Reuter, Verena: Wenig ethnische Diversität in deutschen Zeitungsredaktionen, in: Reiner Geißler, Horst Pöttker (Hrsg.), Massenmedien und die Integration ethnischer Minderheiten in Deutschland, Bielefeld 2009, p. 91f
- The proportion of foreign nationals in German media is well below five per cent according to a 2007/2008 survey.SourceOulios, Miltiadis (2010): Mit Einwanderungsgeschichte in deutschen Massenmedien - unterrepräsentiert oder auf dem Vormarsch?, in: Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung (Publ.): Zur Rolle der Medien in der Einwanderungsgesellschaft. Gesprächskreis Migration und Integration, Bonn: Bonner Universitäts-Buchdruckerei, p. 24 f
There are various reasons for the low level of diversity: Editorial departments often lack concrete measures to implement more diversity. Experts also say that journalists with a migration background face many obstacles, as they often have to prove themselves more compared to their colleagues without international ties.SourceNeue Deutsche Medienmacher (2020): "Viel Wille, kein Weg: Diversity im deutschen Journalismus", p. 4
People with migration history or BPOC are underrepresented in German film as well as TV programmes, as several studies show:
- In 2021, the MaLisa Foundation found that a mere 11 per cent of protagonists across German TV programmes are played by people with migration backgroundFor definition and context on 'migration background, see above.. This compares to 27.2 per cent proportion among the overall population. BPOC only played five per cent of protagonists, although their proportion in the overall population is estimated at 10 per cent.SourceMaLisa Stiftung (2021) Sichtbarkeit und Vielfalt: Fortschrittsstudie zur audiovisuellen Diversität'
- When analysing own productions, Universal Film AG found BPOC only played 7.6 per cent of protagonists or supporting roles (vs. their proportion of roughly 10 per cent in the population).SourceUfa Research & Digital Insights 'Ufa On-Screen Diversity Report 2021', p. 2.
- In a 2021 large-scale survey of 5,500 film professionals by Citizens for Europe, three-quarters said minorities were depicted in a stereotypical way. Around 50 per cent said they had been discriminated against over the last two years on the job, five per cent said this happened "often" or "all the time".
- People perceived as having international roots are less likely to be invited as experts in news broadcasts, especially on economics (four per cent) or the labour market (two per cent). They are more likely to speak on migration (42 per cent) or refugee issues (27 per cent), the New German Media Professionals found.
A 2021 study analysed migration and refugee media coverage in Germany's six largest daily newspapers and TV broadcasters between 2016-2020. Based on quantitative content analysis of 5,822 media reports, the researchers found: German news reported on migration and refugees in predominantly negative terms, emphasising danger and suggesting confrontation between migrants and the population. However, the degree to which they emphasised negative consequences varied: tabloids and conservative-leaning publications placed more emphasis on risks compared to centre-left leaning publications.SourceMaurer et al. (2021) "Five years of media coverage of migration and refugees", Mercator, p.20-24.
In a 2020 report for MEDIENDIENST INTEGRATION, media researcher Thomas Hestermann came to similar conclusions. According to the research paper, German media primarily covered violence, crime, the costs of integration, or concepts of "over-foreignisation." Immigration as an opportunity, on the other hand, was rarely reported on, with the exception of coverage of labour market and the welfare state issues.SourceHestermann, Thomas (2020): „Die Unsichtbaren: Eine Expertise für den Mediendienst Integration“, page 2ff
Another key finding from the report: The voices of immigrants and refugees are largely lacking in news coverage, even when they are reported on. Other studiesFengler, S./Kreutler, M. (2020): "Stumme Migranten, laute Politik, gespaltene Medien: Die Berichterstattung über Flucht und Migration in 17 Ländern"; Eberl et al (2018): "The European media discourse on immigration and its effects: a literature review". show similar findings.
Coverage does, however, vary by medium and country:
- A study by TU Dortmund University (2020) examined migration reporting in 16 European countries and the USA. One finding: Western European and left-wing/liberal media report more on topics such as social engagement with refugees, while Eastern European and more right-wing/conservative media report more on problematic topics such as crime.SourceFengler, S.; Kreutler M. (2020): "Stumme Migranten, laute Politik, gespaltene Medien: Die Berichterstattung über Flucht und Migration in 17 Ländern", p. 6, 22
- According to a study from 2019, migration is reported on more frequently in countries that host many migrants than in countries from which people mainly emigrate. In addition, reports in Europe are more positive about intra-European migration than migration from outside Europe.SourceEberl et al. (2019): "European Media Migration Report: How Media Cover Migration and Intra-EU Mobility in Terms of Salience, Sentiment and Framing", p. 37, 48, 54, 64
After the prominent 2015/16 Cologne New Year's Eve assaults, media in Germany came under attack for concealing or downplaying crimes committed by immigrants and refugees. As a result, some editorial departments increasingly began reporting a crime suspect's foreign nationality or international roots.
How often do German media report a crime suspect's nationality?
Media reports on criminal offenses are often distorted, as Thomas Hestermann's research from 2022 for MEDIENDIENST INTEGRATION shows: Crime suspects with international roots get 16 times more media attention compared to German passport holders, especially for violent offenses. While the proportion of crime suspects with foreign citizenship is only 30.6 per cent according to official crime statistics, they appear in 87.5 per cent of news reports on crime.SourceMEDIENDIENST Integration / Thomas Hestermann (2022): "Zwischen Gewalttätern und Stürmerstars: Die Berichterstattung über Eingewanderte und Geflüchtete".
Hestermann's research from 2019 also showed: German media cited crime suspects' nationality much more often compared to a few years prior. In 2019, almost one in three television reports on violent crimes referred to the suspects' nationality (31.4 per cent), compared to 17.9 per cent in 2017.SourceHestermann, Thomas (2019): "Wie häufig nennen Medien die Herkunft von Tatverdächtigen? Eine Expertise für den Mediendienst Integration", p. 2 f
Media regulations on reporting a crime suspect's nationality
Whether or not media should report the nationality, ethnicity or migrant status of a crime suspect is stipulated in Guideline 12.1 of the German Press Code. In 2017, the German Press Council made a controversial amendment: Previously, the Press Code stipulated that a crime suspect's nationality, religion or ethnicity should only be mentioned if they were relevant to the crime. Since 2017, it states a suspect's or perpetrator's ethnicity, religion or other minority status should only be mentioned in case of "justified public interest." This would be applicable for particularly serious or exceptional crimes such as terrorism, or if crimes were committed by a group of perpetrators who shared a common characteristic (as was the case in the New Year's Eve assaults in Cologne 2015/16).
Experts warn that naming the nationality or migrant status of an individual can lead to the stigmatisation of entire minority groups. They recommend that nationality, ethnicity or migrant status only be mentioned if the report makes its connection to the crime evident.
People with a "migration background"For official definition and context, see above predominantly read or watch German-language media, as several studies indicated:
According to an analysis of the Expert Council on Integration and Migration (SVR) from 2018, almost 90 per cent of people living in Germany with a migration background exclusively or predominantly inform themselves on politics in the German language. Only one in ten exclusively or predominantly read or watch media in their second or native language.SourceSachverständigenrat deutscher Stiftungen für Integration und Migration (2018): "Sonderauswertung des SVR-Integrationsbarometers: Integration in Nordrhein-Westfalen", page 19, and Zambonini, Gualtiero und Simon, Erk (2008): "Kulturelle Vielfalt und Integration" in: Media Perspektiven 3/2008, p. 120-124
A 2019 survey by the public WDR Mediagroup among 20-40 year olds with a migration background showed that their media use was comparable to that of their peer group without international ties. Respondents used media from their families' countries of origin as a supplementary source and primarily for controversial topics.SourceSimon, Erk und Krtalic, Iva und Kloppenburg, Gerhard (2020): „Junge Menschen mit Zuwanderungsgeschichte: Mediennutzung und Programmerwartungen“ in: Media Perspektiven 7-8/2020, pages 448 ff
A representative study from 2016 examined the media behavior of refugees in Germany. While television was still the most important medium in their home countries, it was overtaken by the internet during their journeys and in Germany.QuelleEmmer, Martin; Richter, Carola; Kunst, Marlene (2016): "Mediennutzung durch Flüchtlinge vor, während und nach der Flucht", Freie Universität Berlin, S. 6
There are now various news services in Germany aimed directly at refugees. For instance the infomigrants site, of which Deutsche Welle is a part. WDR's Refugee Radio, which broadcasts news in Arabic. Or the information platforms Amal Berlin and Amal Hamburg, for which refugee journalists from Syria, Afghanistan, Egypt and Iran work.
In 2015-2016, some media companies developed formats to explain life in Germany to refugees, such as n-tv’s Marhaba. However, most of these formats have since been halted or discontinued.