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 2021, there were 81,284 asylum applications, of which 58,927 were first-time applications.
- This corresponds to a 48 percent increase as compared to the same time period in 2020.
- Approximately one fifth of the applications were from children of refugees who were born in Germany.
- The three main countries of origin were Syria (40,905 applications), Afghanistan (8,376) and Iraq (5,607).
- The German Federal Office for Migration and Refugees (BAMF) ruled on 80,142 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 34.4 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 6/2021, Federal Office for Migration and Refugees (BAMF)
- In 2020, there were 122,170 asylum applications, of which 102,581 were first-time applications.
- This corresponds to a 2 percent increase as compared to the same time period in 2019.
- Approximately one fifth of the applications were from 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 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 12/2020, Federal Office for Migration and Refugees (BAMF)
In the first six months of 2021 the BAMF ruled on 80,142 asylum applications. 27,556 persons were granted protection. The protection rate for this period was 34.4 percent (total protection rate). SourceCurrent figures regarding Asylum 6/2021, Federal Office for Migration and Refugees
- 13,792 persons received “refugee protection” under § 3 Asylum Procedure Act,
- 533 persons received "asylum" under Article 16a of the German Constitution,
- 10,571 persons received subsidiary protection,
- 2,660 persons received a deportation ban based on EU law or international agreements.
The BAMF ruled on 145,071 asylum applications in 2020. 62,470 persons were granted protection. The protection rate for this period was 43.1 percent (total protection rate). SourceCurrent figures regarding Asylum 12/2020, Federal Office for Migration and Refugees
- 36,125 persons received “refugee protection” under § 3 Asylum Procedure Act,
- 1,693 persons received "asylum" under Article 16a of the German Constitution,
- 18,950 persons received subsidiary protection,
- 5,702 persons received a deportation ban based on EU law or international agreements.
According to the Central Register of Foreign Nationals (AZR), on the reporting date 31.12.2019, there were approximately 1.4 million people living in Germany who have received some level of refugee protection. Just under one in four has lived in Germany for at least ten years. A little more than quarter of them are minors.SourceGerman Federal Statistical Office (2020), press release dated 23. July 2020, for more detailed information: Population and Occupation: Persons in need of protection Fachserie 1, Reihe 2.4, pages 150 ff.
These are the four main groups considered in the asylum-statistics (figures rounded):
- 12,200 who are entitled to asylum according to Article 16a of Germany’s Basic Law.
- 615,700 refugees under the Geneva Convention, most of whom arrived from Syria or Iraq within the past five years.
- 235,800 beneficiaries of subsidiary protection, the majority of whom also come from Syria and Iraq and arrived in Germany more recently.
- 112,500 people who cannot be deported due to the UN Convention against Torture – mostly from Afghanistan.SourceGerman Federal Statistical Office (2020), Population and Occupation: Persons in need of protection Fachserie 1, Reihe 2.4, pages 174 ff., as well as: Answer of the Federal Government to a parliamentary enquiry of the "Linke" group, BT-Drs. 19/13303, pages 31 and 34
In addition there are other people who benefit from other forms of protection (figures rounded):
- 22,700 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.
- 6,300 who have been granted temporary residence for "urgent humanitarian or personal reasons" (AufenthG §25 paragraph 5).
- 21,700 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.
- 38,800 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.SourceGerman Federal Statistical Office (2020), Population and Occupation: Persons in need of protection Fachserie 1, Reihe 2.4, pages 174 ff., as well as Answer of the Federal Government to a parliamentary enquiry of the "Linke" group, BT-Drs. 19/13303, pages 31 and 34
Outside of this 1.4 million, an additional 266,000 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: December 31st 2019). Around 178,000 rejected asylum seekers also live in Germany as so-called ‘Geduldete‘ or tolerated persons.SourceGerman Federal Statistical Office (2020), Population and Occupation: Persons in need of protection Fachserie 1, Reihe 2.4, page 162
The number of "foreigners" (i.e. residents without German nationality) varies depending on the survey concerned:
- According to the Micro-Census, there were 10.3 million "foreigners" living in Germany in 2020. This is a new high. Of this figure, about 1.6 million had "no migration experience" because they were born in Germany.SourceGerman Federal Statistical Office (2021): Population and Occupation - Population with a Migration Background, Fachserie 1 Reihe 2.2, page 31
- According to the "Central Register of Foreign Nationals” (AZR), there were about 11.2 million "foreigners" living in Germany at the end of 2019. This corresponds to an increase of 2.9 percent (313,000 persons) compared to 2018. SourceGerman Federal Statistical Office (2020): Foreign Nationals Statistics (summary)
- The “Population Projection” predicted that around 10.4 million "foreigners" would live in Germany by the end of 2019. 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 (2020) Foreign Nationals 2019 Fachserie 1 Reihe 2, page 19
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 2020, there were around 21.9 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 26,7 percent of the total population. In 2018, it was 25.5 percent.
- Around 11.5 million, the majority, have a German passport.
- Around 10.3 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 dated October 1st 2021; German Federal Statistical Office (2021): Foreign Nationals 2020 Fachserie 1 Reihe 2.2, page 31
Of the 21.2 million “persons with a migration background”,
- 13.2 per cent have a Turkish migration background (around 2.8 million),
- 10.4 per cent have a Polish migration background (around 2.2 million),
- 6.6 per cent from have a migration background originating from the Russian Federation (around 1.4 million).SourceGerman Federal Statistical Office (2020): Findings of the Micro-Census 2019 Fachserie 1 Reihe 2.2 page 68
Most of the 13.7 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 (2020): Findings of the Central Register of Foreign Nationals 2019 Fachserie 1 Reihe 2.2 page 72
About 2.6 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. 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 (2020): Findings of the Central Register of Foreign Nationals 2019. Fachserie 1 Reihe 2.2 p. 68
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
In 2019, there were around 2.8 million people with migration links to Turkey living in Germany. They are Germany's largest grouping of “migration-backgrounders”. Somewhat more than half of them (1.5 million) were born in Germany.SourceGerman Federal Statistical Office (2020): Population and Occupation - Population with a migrant background, Findings of the Micro-Census 2019, p. 68
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 2019 about 1.4 million ethnic Turks had a German passport, 252,000 have “dual citizenship”. SourceGerman Federal Statistical Office upon request by MEDIENDIENST; German Federal Statistical Office (2020): Population and Occupation - Population with a migrant background, Findings of the Micro-Census 2019, p. 173
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.
The Central Register of Foreign Nationals (AZR) records only foreign nationals: around 1.5 million people were thus registered with a Turkish passport in 2019. 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 2019: The Federal Statistical Office reports that around 1.59 million people moved to Germany in 2019 (1.34 million were foreign nationals). In the course of the year, about 1.23 million people emigrated from Germany. This results in a positive net migration of 327,000 people. Net migration to Germany has been decreasing for the past four years.SourceGerman Federal Statistical Office: Report 2019
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 2019, the majority of immigrants to Germany came from another European country (about 66 percent). About 51 per cent of the new arrivals moved to Germany from an EU country. Approximately 14 percent of the new arrivals came from Asia, about 4 percent from Africa. SourceFederal Statistical Office on request by MEDIENDIENST INTEGRATION, calculations by MEDIENDIENST
Most arrivals in 2019 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 2019, about 7.4 million adults living in Germany with a so-called ‘migration backgroundA person is considered to have a migration background if he/she has the German citizenship but was't born in Germany or one of his parents is a foreign citizen’ were allowed to participate in federal elections. These figures are taken from 2019 microcensus data. Voters with a migration background accounted for 10.2 percent of all eligible voters in the most recent German Parliament (Bundestag) elections in 2017. This figure was around nine percent prior to the 2013 federal elections.SourceStatistisches Bundesamt (2020): "Bevölkerung mit Migrationshintergrund - Ergebnisse des Mikrozensus 2019", S. 71; SVR (2018): "CDU und CSU sind erstmals die beliebtesten Parteien bei Zuwanderinnen und Zuwanderern", Pressemitteilung vom 27. September 2018; Bundeswahlleiter: Pressemitteilung vom 13. August 2013
The proportion of voters with a migrant background among all eligible voters varies from region to region: In federal states such as Baden-Württemberg, North Rhine-Westphalia, or Hesse, the proportion was over 12.5 percent in 2017. In former East-German states, it was between 1.3 and 2 percent.SourceIntegrationsministerkonferenz (2019): "Integrationsmonitoring der Länder", S. 22
A research team from the University of Duisburg-Essen and the University of Cologne interviewed around 500 people of Turkish origin and 500 Germans from Russia about their voting behavior. The surveyErste Auswertung der Immigrant German Election Study, E. Goerres, D. Spies, S.J. Mayer, Deutsche mit Migrationshintergrund bei der Bundestagswahl 2017, März 2018, Seiten 6 und 7 shows that the center-left Social Democratic Party of Germany (SPD) is the most popular party among German Turks, at 35 percent. Almost a third of Russian Germans, on the other hand, voted for the center-right Christian Democratic Union (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 Russian Germans based on whether they hold dual citizenship. For example, 24 percent of German Turks who solely hold German citizenship voted for the CDU/CSU. By contrast, only two percent of German Turks with dual citizenship voted for the CDU/CSU. Almost a quarter of Russian Germans with dual citizenship voted for the right-wing "Alternative for Germany" party compared to 14 percent of Russian Germans with only German citizenship.
According to one representative study by the SVR research group, the CDU/CSU are for the first time the most popular parties among people with a migration background, at 43.2 percent. In comparison, the Social Democrats received 25 percent. The Green Party and the leftist "Linke" Party reach about 10 percent each. The liberal FDP and the right-wing populist AfD around 5 percent. 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 are similar with regard to the mainstream CDU/CSU and SPD parties.
Measured by their proportion of the population (around 26.7 percent), people with a so-called ‘migration backgroundA person is considered to have a migration background if he/she has the German citizenship but was't born in Germany or one of his parents is a foreign citizen’ are underrepresented in German federal, state, and local parliaments. This is confirmed by the few available studies on the matter.SourceStatistisches Bundesamt: Pressrelease from 1 October 2021
BUNDESTAG (Federal Parliament):
MEDIENDIENST research from 2021 shows that at least 83 out of 735 members of parliament in the Bundestag have a migration background, making up 11.3 percent.
A look into the individual fractions shows that the Left party has the highest proportion of members with a migration background and the CDU/CSU has the lowest:
- 28.2 percent: The Left
- 14.4 percent: The Greens
- 17 percent: The SPD
- 7.2 percent: The AfD
- 5.4 percent: The FDP
- 4.1 percent: The CDU/CSU
LANDTAGE (State Parliaments):
Members with a migration background are also clearly underrepresented in state parliaments. This is shown through state “integration monitoring”. According to the study, politicians with a migration background made up an average of only 4.5 percent of state parliaments in 2015. This is, however, an increase overall: in 2005, the figure was 1.4 percent.SourceInnenministerkonferenz (2019): "Integrationsmonitoring der Länder", S. 114f.
KOMMUNALE PARLAMENTE (Local Parliaments):
There are no current surveys on the proportion of elected officials with migration backgrounds in municipalities. The most recent study was conducted by the Max Planck Institute between 2006 and 2011 in Germany’s then 77 major cities. According to the study, 4 percent of city council members had a migration background.SourceMax-Planck-Institut zur Erforschung multireligiöser und multiethnischer Gesellschaften (2011): "Vielfalt sucht Rat", S. 23
Only five out of 335 mayorsOur research focussed on "Oberbürgermeister" i.e. mayors of major cities. This title is applied differently in different parts of Germany though. in Germany (1.5 percent) have a ‘migration backgroundA person is considered to have a migration background if he/she has the German citizenship but was't born in Germany or one of his parents is a foreign citizen’, according to October 2020 research by Mediendienst Integration. 26 percent of Germany’s population has a migration background.QuelleQueries of the MEDIENDIENST INTEGRATION to the regional sections of the parties associated with local mayors as well as research through the press-offices of the mayors. Please refer to "Liste der deutschen Oberbürgermeister" (Wikipedia, March 2020).
The five mayors with migrant backgrounds belong to the following parties:
- The Christian Democratic Union CDU (2),
- The Free Democratic Party FDP (1),
- Green Party (1) and
- independent (1).
One of these five mayors solely possesses Danish citizenship, namely the Lord Mayor of Rostock, Claus Ruhe Madsen (independent), who has been in office since 2019. No women with a migration background currently hold office in Germany as mayor.QuelleQueries of the MEDIENDIENST INTEGRATION to the regional sections of the parties associated with local mayors as well as research through the press-offices of the mayors. Please refer to "Liste der deutschen Oberbürgermeister" (Wikipedia, March 2020).
People with a ‘migration background’ are significantly underrepresented in German editorial departments and very few current studies exist on the subject.
One 2020 poll of editors-in-chief at Germany’s largest 126 media outlets showed that just six percent of editors-in-chief have a ‘migration background’ – and they all come from countries neighboring Germany or within the EU.SourceNeue Deutsche Medienmacher (May 2020), Viel Wille, kein Weg, Page 3
Older surveys on newsroom diversity show:
- No more than four to five percent 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 percent 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 percent 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 hurdles. They often have to prove themselves on the job more than their colleagues.SourceNeue Deutsche Medienmacher (2020): "Viel Wille, kein Weg: Diversity im deutschen Journalismus", p. 4
Reporting on immigrants and refugees is often distorted. This was the conclusion reached by media researcher Thomas Hestermann in a 2020 report for Mediendienst Integration. According to that report, the media report primarily on acts of violence, crime, the costs of integration, or "over-foreignization." Immigration as an opportunity, on the other hand, is rarely reported on. The exceptions are reports on the labor market and the welfare state.SourceHestermann, Thomas (2020): „Die Unsichtbaren: Eine Expertise für den Mediendienst Integration“, page 2ff
Another key finding from the report is that 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
Since the 2015/16 Cologne New Year's Eve attacks, the media in Germany have increasingly been accused of concealing or playing down the crimes committed by immigrants and refugees. Some editorial departments therefore began to more frequently mention the origin of crime suspects.
The naming of origin is regulated in Guideline 12.1 of the Press Code. The German Press Council changed it in 2017 with a controversial decision. Previously, the origin was only to be mentioned if there was a connection to the crime. Since 2017, the code states that a suspect's or perpetrator's affiliation with an ethnic, religious or other minority group should only be mentioned if there is "a justified public interest." This would be applicable, for example, in the case of particularly serious or exceptional crimes such as terrorism, or if crimes were committed by a larger group in which many share a common characteristic such as belonging to a national group (example: The New Year's Eve attacks in Cologne).
Experts warn that naming the origin of an individual can lead to the stigmatization of entire population groups. The origin should therefore only be mentioned if the report explains why it is relevant to the crime.
How often do the media mention the origin of crime suspects?
A Mediendienst Integration report written by media researcher Thomas Hestermann shows that the media mention the origin of alleged crime suspects significantly more often than they did just a few years ago. In 2019, almost one in three television reports on violent crime refers to the origin of the suspects (31.4 percent), compared with 17.9 percent in 2017.
However, the origin is mainly mentioned when the suspects possess foreign citizenship. Compared with police crime statistics, this results in a highly distorted picture. For example, in 2019, foreign crime suspects were mentioned 19 times as often in television reports and 32 times as often in newspaper reports than their statistical share.SourceHestermann, Thomas (2019): "Wie häufig nennen Medien die Herkunft von Tatverdächtigen? Eine Expertise für den Mediendienst Integration", p. 2 f
People with a "migration background" predominantly consume German-language media. This has been shown by several studies:
A special analysis of the Expert Council on Integration and Migration (SVR)’s 2018 “Integration Barometer” showed that almost 90 percent of people with a migration background exclusively or predominantly inform themselves about politics in German. Only one in ten people in Germany with a migration background exclusively or predominantly consume media in their language of origin.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 conducted by the WDR Mediagroup among 20-40 year olds with a migration background showed that their media use was the same as that of people in the same age group without a migration background. The respondents used media from their family's countries of origin more 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.