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July 1994, Volume 1, Number 6

Immigration in Germany

Germany is the major country of immigration in Europe. Over the past five years, an average 830,000 foreigners annually arrived in the former West Germany, producing one of the world's highest rates of immigration. In the former West Germany, deaths exceed births, so that immigrants who add about 1.5 percent annually to the 60 million population there are far more visible than the comparable rate of immigration to turn-of-the-century US.

Germany's "melting pot" has been marked by violence against and marches in support of foreigners; Ueberfremdung(overforeignization) was deemed the "worst" new word to enter the German vocabulary in 1993. However, there is still no German immigration or immigrant (integration) policy. Chancellor Kohl has appealed to his EU partners to develop an EU-wide immigration policy to deal with immigration, what he called the central challenge "facing Europe in the 1990s." However, after 12 years in office, his coalition government has dealt only with asylum--it has not so far tackled naturalization or rules for admitting immigrants.


Germany has a rather difficult naturalization procedure that includes the requirement that persons wishing to become German citizens give up their original citizenship. One proposal to deal with naturalization is to allow dual citizenship and to allow non-citizen residents to vote in local elections. At its three-day congress in early June, 1994, the FDP (Free Democratic Party) pledged to introduce legislation that would reform Germany's 1913 citizenship laws and permit foreigners to vote in local elections if Chancellor Helmut Kohl's governing coalition is returned to power in the October 1994 election.

Cornelia Schmalz-Jacobsen, Commissioner for Aliens Affairs, was elected to the FDP presidium at the Congress. She has been championing dual citizenship and similar reforms to promote the integration of foreigners in Germany.

President Demirel of Turkey in April 1994 appealed for Turks living in Germany to give up their Turkish citizenship and become naturalized Germans so that they could become a more effective "lobby for Turkey" in Europe.


The number of asylum seekers in Germany continued to fall in 1994. After averaging 12,000 monthly between January and April, the number of asylum seekers fell to 9,300 in May.

There has been a great deal of speculation about how illegal attempts to enter Germany would respond to the July 1, 1993 changes in German asylum laws and procedures. On the German-Polish border, apprehensions have decreased, from an average 1,500 monthly--two-thirds Romanians-- in 1993 to 1,200 monthly in April and May 1994. In 1992, there were 46,200 foreigners apprehended on the job in Germany, and there were 5,200 preliminary proceedings initiated against contract workers suspected of working illegally.

About 86,000 Germans emigrated in 1992; two-thirds of them remained in Europe.

Almost 50,000 Aussiedler (ethnic Germans), most from the Asian republics of the former USSR, arrived in Germany during the first three months of 1994. Under a 1993 revision of the German law, a maximum 225,000 Aussiedler are permitted to enter Germany each year from the former USSR.

In April 1994, the German Parliament amended its Employment Promotion Law (Beschaeftigugngsforderungsgesetz) to permit private employment agencies to match even unskilled workers and jobs. This reform also permits unemployed workers drawing UI benefits to be placed for up to three months in seasonal agricultural jobs for which they will receive 25DM ($15) daily. In 1993, most of the 200,000 seasonal foreign workers employed in Germany worked in agriculture.

David Gow, "A Cold and Wet Reception For Illegals On The Union's Eastern Frontier," The Guardian, June 3, 1994, p. 11. The Economist, May 14, 1994, p. 55; May 21, 1994, p. S5. Judy Dempsey, "Pledge on German immigration laws," Financial Times, June 6, 1994; This Week in Germany, April 22, 1994, p. 4.