Germany has emerged as one of the world’s most preferred destinations for migrants. The Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) stated in 2017 that Germany remains no. 2 only to the USA as the most popular country for immigration. In none of the 35 OECD member states has migration risen as fast in recent years as in Germany. In 2015 the figure of two million new foreigners set a record. Many of them came seeking protection, above all wars and conflicts, e.g., in Syria and Iraq, led to many people fleeing their home countries and seeking shelter elsewhere. In 2016 the figure had dropped to about 1.7 million migrants, and has continued to fall since.
The Federal Government champions reducing the causes of flight and irregular migration as well as actively structuring and controlling migration processes. This includes people with no prospect of residence in Germany returning to their countries of origin, and support for their reintegration there. In 2016 there were a total of some 10 million foreign passport holders living in Germany. 18.6 million persons had a migrant background, including immigrants, foreigners born in Germany, and persons who had a parent who was either an immigrant or a foreigner. The group thus accounts for over 22 percent of the total population. 9.6 million persons with a migrant background were German passport holders; of them, 42 percent have been German citizens since birth. A further 33 percent themselves immigrated to Germany as (late) repatriates; the remaining 25 percent have taken German citizenship. In 2016 alone almost 110,400 foreigners acquired German citizenship.
Migrants play a key role in Germany’s social and economic development. The growing need for skilled workers has brought increasingly well qualified migrants to Germany and the Federal Government wishes to enable further immigration amongst others to counteract the lack of skilled labour resulting from demographic change. Flanking greater activation of the in-country pool for potential employment and of immigration from EU member states, the Federal Government also considers immigration by skilled labour from third-party countries a way to blunt the impact of demographic change and help secure the base of skilled labour.
Highly qualified migrants are granted an EU Blue Card, facilitating their entry into the German labour market. Skilled labour from non-EU countries with recognised vocational training in certain bottleneck fields, such as the health and care professions, can come to Germany to work. To exhaust the potential in full, legislation is planned to interface the regulations on immigration.
Integration as a key element of migration policy
Integration policy is a core policy area in Germany and is considered a task for all of society. Integration is a service, but also requires migrants to commit to making efforts themselves as it can only succeed as a mutual process. According to the Residency Act, those foreigners who legally live long-term on German territory can lay claim to federal integration services. These services include language instruction, integration in training, work, and education, as well as social integration. The goal: to enable such persons to be part of and play a part in society. The central measure: an integration course consisting of language instruction and an orientation course.
More than 30 percent of the 20-34 year-old foreign adults remain without vocational qualifications. A key goal of the Federal Government: to enhance their participation in education. The reform of the citizenship laws in 2014 introduced dual citizenship. For persons who were born and have grown up in Germany after 1990 and are the children of foreign parents, the “obligation” to opt for either the one or the other citizenship after completing their 23rd year has been abolished.
Protection for refugees and the politically persecuted
The Basic Law guarantees politically persecuted persons a right to asylum. In this way, Germany affirms its historical and humanitarian responsibility. In 2015 – as part of the so-called “refugee crisis”, 890,000 arrived in Germany seeking protection, and in 2016 about 746,000 persons applied for asylum. The number of persons seeking protection in Germany has since been falling, with some 223,000 applications for asylum filed in 2017, with the figure approx. 64,000 for January-April 2018. Germany advocates a European solution to the refugee issue based on solidarity. The Federal Government is at the same time committed to improving refugee protection and supporting refugees in their host countries.