General News, Wherefrom and Why: European Shadows of Immigration, 22.02.2015

Wherefrom and Why: European Shadows of Immigration

Immigration to Germany has again made it to the top of the political agenda. Despite all controversies, there is remarkable consent regarding one question: Germany needs (more) highly qualified immigrants. This is a demand not only voiced by trade associations but also by all political parties from the Green Party, the so-called people's parties to the AfD. Many advocates of an "Immigration Act" favour the "Canadian model", which tries to manage immigration through a "scoring system"  linked to qualification. In fact, the German practice is not far off the Canadian one: There is indeed a "Residence Act" which generously regulates the immigration of skilled employees from non-EU countries. And within the EU the known free movement of workers applies. Thus, even qualified proponents of a more generous immigration policy emphasise that "Germany today possibly has the most liberal immigration legislation worldwide." With respect to one decisive aspect the German system is indeed even more liberal than the "Canadian model": Deficient knowledge of the language is no hindrance to immigration, whereas in Canada this would lead to the elimination from the scoring system (1).

So the doors for qualified immigrants, also from outside the EU, are wide open, an opportunity that is particularly used by Indians and Russians. The number of these immigrants, however, is rather moderate: In 2013, it amounted to 24,000 (2) - a very small percentage of the overall migration figures as detailed in the latest immigration report. According to this, a total of 1.23 million immigrations were reported for 2013 as compared to 800,000 emigrations, leading to net immigration figures of 430,000 people. The estimate for 2014 is set at 400,000 (3). In the current year, the net immigration is most likely going to rise not least because of the influx of refugees from the Middle East. This immigration flow lies at the centre of the debate on immigration and is thus receiving particular attention. That is rightly the case, as integration problems - especially due to Islamism - do concern people from the Middle East in particular.

From a quantitative point of view, immigration from this region is of much lesser importance than many contemporaries - not only the PEGIDA demonstrators - may think, as most of the immigrants are actually European. In 2013, more than three fourths came from European countries (4). Since the 1990s, Poland has been the most important country of origin. Due to the Free Movement of Persons Agreement in 2009 immigration from the Eastern neighbouring country has been given a new boost. Since the accession of Romania and Bulgaria to the EU, immigration from South Eastern Europe has recently experienced a phenomenal increase: The number of immigrants from Romania has almost seen a six-fold increase compared to 2006 - the year before its accession. In the case of Bulgaria, figures have even increased almost eightfold (5). Among these immigrants there are many seasonal workers, but at the same time permanent immigration has also grown significantly. Today, Romania - after Poland - is the second most important country of origin for (net) immigration to Germany, Bulgaria ranks forth. (6).

These countries' share in immigration is greatly disproportionate, which is especially true for small Bulgaria. The immigration flows are an indication for the difficult situation in these countries, reasons being poverty and underemployment. Emigration even aggravates such problems; it is particularly dangerous for the health care system. (7). Also Southern Europe suffers from emigration of qualified employees. This does not only concern Greece and the Iberian Peninsula, but most recently also Italy - the third most important country of origin for immigration to Germany - is facing the consequences of emigration. Whoever regards immigration as a cause for celebration is turning a blind eye to the overall situation in Europe, as its main reason is the economic crisis in large parts of the continent. Even more so: whoever, in the light of this crisis, seeks to push "qualified" immigration proves to be not only nationalistically parasitic but recklessly capitalistic and anti-European. In the long-run, this attitude will intensify the European crisis and fuel resentment towards Germany.


(1)   Christine Langenfeld: Gute Gesetze – schlechtes Marketing, FAZ, 2nd July 2013, pg. 10. This does not only concern English as today's lingua franca. The large, autonomous province of Québec insists on French, which does not come easily to many people. Cf:
(2)   Federal Ministry of the Interior (ed.): Immigration report of the Federal Office for Migration and Refugees by order of the German Government (immigration report 2013), Berlin 2015, pg. 81 (tables 3-16).
(3)   Ibid., pg. 7. Estimates for 2014 and 2015:
For importance of migration with the EU please see: Immigration by legal reasons (illustration).
(4)   Ibid., pg. 7.
(5)   Cf.: Migration to and from Germany (illustration below).
(6)   Cf.: Migration from and to Germany (illustration).
(7)   See also: