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January 2012, Volume 19, Number 1

France, Germany, Benelux

French leader Nicolas Sarkozy in December 2011 supported revising the Schengen free-movement zone. The Schengen agreement of 1985 dismantled border controls between what are now 23 EU member countries and Norway and Switzerland. Foreigners arriving in the Schengen area are checked only at their first point. The Schengen Information System allows border agencies to share information on aliens, asylum seekers and criminals.

Sarkozy said: "Europe, which has to apply internally the principle of free movement but which does not control its external frontiers - that can't go on." Interior minister Claude Gueant added: "It is easier for immigrants to integrate if there are fewer of them ... It is obvious that we need to better manage the flow of immigrants. For immigration to work, we need to be welcoming fewer immigrants each year?It is up to them to adapt to us, not the other way around."

Gueant said that France deported almost 33,000 unauthorized foreigners in 2011 and should reduce legal immigration from 182,600 in 2011.

On the other hand, France's Ministry of Higher Education in October 2011 modified a May 2011 order to restrict part-time work by non-EU foreign students, instructing local prefects to examine applications to work part time "in a positive way." The number of foreigners studying in France, including nationals of other EU countries, rose from 137,500 to 218,400 between 2000 and 2010.

Germany. Germany, with Europe's strongest economy, is attracting migrants from EU countries such as Greece and Spain. The unemployment rate in 2011 averaged 7.1 percent, compared to over 10 percent in the Euro area.

The anniversary of the October 30, 1961 recruitment agreement between Germany and Turkey prompted reflections on fifty years of Turkish migration. Some 900,000 Turks arrived in Germany between 1961 and 1973, when recruitment was stopped. This means that a sixth of the nonfarm jobs held by Turks in 1973 were in Germany at a time when Turkey's labor force was 15 million, including 10 million employed in agriculture. Today, Germany has about three million residents of Turkish origin.

The first Turkish Gastarbeiter had two-year contracts and were expected to leave Germany when these contracts expired. However, the German government changed this rotation policy in 1964 at the request of employers who did not want to lose trained and experienced guest workers. Many migrant workers then formed or unified families in Germany, widening the gap between the number of foreigners in Germany and the number of employed foreign workers.

Germany had 7.1 million foreigners in 2010. Three million or 42 percent were mostly employed during the year. Another 1.2 million or 17 percent were mostly dependent on unemployment insurance and welfare assistance.

The fact that foreigners in Germany have lower labor force participation and higher welfare dependency rates than Germans supports a continued debate on integration. Many observers, including ex-banker Theo Sarrazin, argue that poorly integrated foreigners threaten Germany. Sarrazin?s 2009 book sold 1.3 million copies, a record for a non-fiction book.

Sarrazin says that an underclass of Turks will cause increasing problems. His critics agree that Turks generally, and second- and third-generation Turks in particular, lag behind Germans in school completion rates and employment, but they say the reasons for Turkish integration failures lie with the German government, which did not develop effective integration policies, and in the failure of Germans to welcome foreigners.

Germany is a social welfare state, which helps to explain a fundamental difference between American and German attitudes toward low-skilled migrants who do not learn English and German. In the US, lack of education and English are seen primarily as a private problem for the migrant and his/her family, with spillover effects restricted to perhaps additional welfare payments and more crime. In Germany, by contrast, low-skilled foreigners and their children are generally eligible for welfare benefits, so the failure of some foreigners to learn German and find jobs is seen as a burden for German taxpayers and society.

The German government finances language and integration courses to help foreigners to integrate. Some politicians want to require foreigners to sign integration contracts that require them to successfully complete language and integration courses in order to renew residence permits.

The integration of low-skilled foreigners is the major migration issue in Germany. Other issues include how to attract more highly skilled foreigners and how immigration affects the financing of the social welfare state, that is, will immigration add taxes in the short term at the expense of extra benefit costs in the long term?

Migration Background. German data sometimes distinguish between German residents with and without a migration background, that is, persons born outside Germany who moved to Germany as Germans (ethnic Germans) or as foreigners, and persons born in Germany to at least one foreign-born parent.

There are two major sub-categories of German residents with a migration background. Migration background in the narrow sense includes German residents who migrated to Germany from another country and children born to foreigners in Germany. The broad sense includes persons who did not migrate to Germany from another country but have at least one parent (German or foreign) who did.

In 2010, there were 15.7 million German residents with a migration background, including 8.5 million German citizens and 7.1 million foreigners. Of the German citizens with a migration background, 3.5 million or 42 percent were born in Germany to at least one German-citizen parent who entered Germany from abroad. Of the 7.1 million foreigners with migration backgrounds, 5.6 million were born outside of the country and 1.6 million were born in Germany.

An average of 20,000 foreigners a year applied for asylum in Germany between 2006 and 2008, including half from Asia and almost a quarter from Iraq. In 2009, the number of asylum seekers rose to almost 30,000, including almost a quarter from Iraq. In 2010, there were over 40,000 asylum seekers, with Afghanistan and Iraq accounting for over a quarter of asylum applications.

Skilled. Like many other EU countries, Germany is receiving more low-skilled foreigners and fewer highly skilled foreigners than desired. Between 2000 and 2004, the German Green Card program admitted about 16,000 non-EU foreigners for up to five years to fill computer-related jobs. To be admitted, the foreigner had to be paid at least DM 100,000 ($45,000) a year in Germany (later E51,000 a year).

Germany's Migration Law in 2005 created several programs to admit investors and skilled foreigners paid at least E86,400 a year, reduced to Euro 66,000 a year in 2009 and to E48,000 in 2012. However, only 629 highly qualified non-EU foreigners were hired by German employers under Paragraph 19, including 158 in 2009. Most were already in Germany when they received work permits, over three-fourths in 2010. Far more professionals left Germany during these years than were admitted.

In December 2011, a commission recommended that (www.konsensgruppe.de/) that the German government do more to attract foreign students and professionals. The number of non-EU foreigners studying in Germany doubled to almost 200,000 between 2000 and 2010. Some 15,000 to 20,000 foreigners a year graduate from German universities (many of the others spend a year or semester in Germany). The leading countries of origin are China, Russia, Ukraine, Turkey and India.

Switzerland. The anti-migrant Swiss People Party (SVP) party, the country's largest, won 23 percent of the vote in October 23, 2011 elections, down from 29 percent in 2007. There were 1.7 million foreigners among the 8.2 million Swiss residents in 2010, including 1.1 million foreigners from EU countries.

Switzerland has a free-movement agreement with the EU, and more Germans and other EU nationals are moving to Switzerland to take advantage of higher wages. The Swiss Federal Council sets an annual quota for first-time work permit holders, which was 12,000 in 2011, with 3,500 reserved for EU nationals.

Benelux. In a blow to the EU Schengen border-free system, the Dutch government on January 1, 2012 began operating video cameras at 15 major crossing points with Belgium and Germany to check license plates against a stolen car data base. Denmark operated a similar system for part of 2011 until a new government elected in September 2011 restricted border checks.

Konsensgruppe. 2011. Vom Anwerbestopp zur Gewinnung von Fachkr„ften. Abschlussbericht der Hochrangigen Konsensgruppe Fachkr„ftebedarf und Zuwanderung. (www.konsensgruppe.de/)