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 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 some facts and figures on refugees and migration.
During 2017 as a whole, there were 222,683 applications for asylum, of which 198,317 were first-time applications. The principal countries of origin involved were Syria, Afghanistan and Iraq. The German Federal Office for Migration and Refugees (BAMF) ruled during this period on 603,428 applications. The protection rate was running at 43.4 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.. 186,644 asylum-seekers entered Germany in this time period.SourceAnnual Asylum Report 12/2017, Federal Ministry of the Interior, press release dated 16 January 2017
The BAMF ruled on 603,428 applications for asylum in 2017. 261,642 persons were granted protection. This produces a protection rate of 43.4 per cent (total protection rate).SourceAnnual Asylum Report 12/2017
- 119,550 persons received “refugee protection” under § 3 Asylum Procedure Act,
- 4,359 persons received "asylum" under Article 16a of the German Constitution,
- 98,074 persons received subsidiary protection,
- 39,659 persons received a deportation ban based on EU law or international agreements.
The number of “foreigners” (i.e. residents without German nationality) varies depending on the survey concerned:
- According to the "Central Register of Foreign Nationals” (AZR), there were more than 10,6 million “foreigners” living in Germany at the end of 2017. This is the highest number since 1967, announced the German Federal Statistical Office. In 2015, 9.11 million “foreigners” were still recorded in the AZR. This figure, however, is a “flash estimate”, which was unable to accurately determine the actual number of asylum-seekers.SourceGerman Federal Statistical Office (2018): press release dated 12 April 2018, German Federal Statistical Office (2017): Findings of the Central Register of Foreign Nationals 2016 Fachserie 1 Reihe 2 p. 29
- According to the Micro-Census, in 2016 there were just under 9 million “foreigners” living in Germany. This was a new high. Of this figure, just under 1.4 million had “no migration experience” because they had been born in Germany.SourceGerman Federal Statistical Office (2017): Findings of the Central Register of Foreign Nationals 2016 Fachserie 1 Reihe 2 p. 37
- The “Population Projection” predicted around 9.2 million “foreigners” for the end of 2016. 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: Press release January 16th 2018
It cannot be stated with certainty which of the three figures is the most reliable. Experts, however, suspect that the figures of the AZR are too high. The reason: the AZR was most recently “adjusted” in 2004, i.e. reconciled with the data of the regional foreigners’ registration offices. Back then, the number of “foreigners” had to be corrected downwards quite substantially. Nor has a reconciliation of the AZR with the 2011 census been possible as yet – for “technical and legal reasons”, as the Federal Statistical Office explains.
In 2016, there were around 18.6 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 (8.5 per cent more than in 2015) – this corresponds to 22.5 per cent of the total population.
- With 9.6 million, the majority of them have a German passport.
- Just under 9 million are foreigners.
- Around 12.7 million have their “own migration experience”, meaning they were born abroad and have immigrated.SourceGerman Federal Statistical Office: Press release from August 1st 2017
Of the “persons with a migration background”,
- 15.1 per cent come from Turkey,
- 10.1 per cent from Poland,
- 6.6 per cent from the Russian Federation.SourceGerman Federal Statistical Office (2017): Findings of the Central Register of Foreign Nationals 2016 Fachserie 1 Reihe 2 p. 8
Most of the 12.7 million people who themselves immigrated to Germany come from Europe: just under 66.8 per cent come from European countries (including Turkey), around 38 per cent of these from EU member states.
“Ethnic Germans" from Eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union – referred to as repatriates and late repatriates – are with about 3.2 millionSource: German Federal Statistical Office (2017): Findings of the Central Register of Foreign Nationals 2016 Fachserie 1 Reihe 2 p. 63 people the largest immigrant groupings 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 in Eastern and South-Eastern Europe and in the Soviet Union suffered under the consequences of the Second World War (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.
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 here to enjoy full civil rights, to which they are entitled under the German ConstitutionArticle 116. Besides the late repatriates from Russia, the most late repatriates following the collapse of the Soviet Union came from the Republic of Kazakhstan (575,000), where the Stalinist regime had banished the “Russian-Germans” during the wartime years.SourceGerman Federal Office for Migration and Refugees (2013): (Late) Repatriates in Germany, p. 38
People with migration links to Turkey, according to the Micro-Census, with around 2.8 million constituted the second-largest grouping of “migration-backgrounders” in Germany in 2016. Somewhat more than half of them (1.47 million) were born in Germany.SourceGerman Federal Statistical Office (2017): Findings of the Central Register of Foreign Nationals 2016 Fachserie 1 Reihe 2 p. 63 and 67
What nationality do they have?
Particulars regarding the nationality of ethnic Turks can be found in a variety of statistical sources. According to the Micro-Census, in 2016 about 1.4 million ethnic Turks had a German passport, 247,000 have “dual citizenship”. According to the most recent census in 2011, by contrast, just under 530,000 people had both a German and a Turkish passport.
The census figures, based mainly on analyses of residents’ register entries, are probably too high. One of the reasons for this is that the Turkish authorities do not always inform their German counterparts when they have denaturalised a person. The Micro-Census figures, by contrast, which are based on voluntary self-disclosure of the respondees, are probably too low. One reason for this is that the respondees do not always state their second nationality.SourceGerman Federal Statistical Office: Press release from April 10th 2014 and German Federal Statistical Office (2017): Findings of the Central Register of Foreign Nationals 2016 Fachserie 1 Reihe 2 p. 168
The Central Register of Foreign Nationals (AZR) records only foreign nationals: around 1.5 million people were thus registered with a Turkish passport in 2015. 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.
Germany’s residents with a “migration background” are significantly younger than those without one. 38 per cent of the children under 10 have a migration background. Among the older generations, the proportion of persons with a migration background is lower.SourceGerman Federal Statistical Office (2017): Findings of the Central Register of Foreign Nationals 2016 Fachserie 1 Reihe 2 p. 37
A special analysis of the 2011 Micro-Census reveals differences between the German states: the highest proportion of immigrant children is to be found among the under-6-year-olds in Bremen (58 per cent) followed by Hamburg (49 per cent) and Hesse (46 per cent). In the eastern states of reunited Germany, by contrast, only one in ten of preschool children comes from an immigrant family.SourceGerman Federal Statistical Office (2011): Population by migration status regional, p. 10ff
Figures for 2017: According to the Migration Monitor, in the first half of 2017 around 560,000 foreign nationals moved to Germany, while approximately 307,000 emigrated. Among the new arrivals there were around 307,000 EU citizens. The Migration Monitor is based on figures from the Central Register of Foreign Nationals and records only foreign nationals.SourceGerman Federal Office for Migration and Refugees (2017): Report 2017
Figures for 2016: In 2016, according to the Migration Monitor, around 1.3 million foreign nationals moved to Germany, while around 660,000 emigrated. This accounts for a positive "net migration" of approximately 643,000 persons (see diagram).SourceGerman Federal Office for Migration and Refugees (2017): Report 2016
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” who will be staying here permanently. The same applies to the departures: here, too, it is not known whether the emigration concerned is temporary or permanent.
Detailed particulars on countries of origin are on file for 2015. The majority of immigrants in 2015 were Europeans. Of the approximately 2.14 million new arrivals, according to the Migration Report 45 per cent were EU citizens, and 13 per cent were nationals of another European state. 30 per cent of the new arrivals came from Asia; five per cent immigrated from Africa. The most arrivals in 2015 came from the following countries:
1. Syria: 327,000 (departures: 10,000)
2. Romania: 213,000 (departures: 127,000)
3. Poland: 196,000 (departures: 132,000)
4. Afghanistan: 94,000 (departures: 5,000)
5. Bulgaria: 84,000 (departures: 46,000)
The number of immigrants from the EU states has been rising continuously since 2007. In 2016, the number of EU citizens living in Germany increasedso called net migration by around 294,000 people. On the cut-off date of 31 December 2016, there were around 4.3 million EU citizens living in Germany. In the first half of 2017, the number of immigrants arriving from the EU rose again, by 137,000 people.SourceGerman Federal Statistical Office (2017): Findings of the Central Register of Foreign Nationals 2016 Fachserie 1 Reihe 2
About half of all immigrants who moved to Germany in 2016 came from EU states: in this time period, 634,000 EU citizens (excluding German citizens) immigrated. The number of EU citizens who moved to Germany thus fell slightly for the first time compared to the preceding year: minus 7.5 per cent.SourceGerman Federal Office for Migration and Refugees (2017): Report 2016
The principal countries of origin for EU immigrants were in 2016:
- Romania: 171,400 arrivals
- Poland: 123,100
- Bulgaria: 66,800
- Croatia: 51,200SourceGerman Federal Office for Migration and Refugees (2017): Report 2016
Most of the EU immigrants living in Germany come from:
- Poland: 783,061
- Italy: 611,379
- Romania: 533,539
- Greece: 348,339SourceGerman Federal Office for Migration and Refugees (2017): Report 2016
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
News Zum Thema: Facts in English
Conference of the MEDIENDIENST INTEGRATION European projects on media and migration forge new ties
How do debates on immigration, refugees and integration of immigrants take place in different European countries? What kind of challenges do projects that promote an unbiased media-coverage have to face? And how can they work together across national borders? Projects from 11 European countries addressed these topics at a conference organized by the MEDIENDIENST INTEGRATION.
New English dossiers Facts and figures on migration, refugees and minorities
How many applications for asylum are being submitted in Germany? How many foreigners and how many people with a "migration background" live in the country? How has migration shaped the country throughout history? The MEDIENDIENST INTEGRATION (Media Service Migration) provides facts, figures and reliable sources to key-issues of the debate on migration and social inclusion.
German Parliament 58 MPs have a Migration Background
Research of the MEDIENDIENST found that 58 members of the German Parliament have a so-called migration background. This corresponds to 8 percent of the members of Parliament – a slightly higher ratio than 2013. They were born or have at least one parent born as a foreigner. However, 22.5 percent of the German population has a migration background.