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Foreigners In Germany
As of early 1994, approximately 6.8 million registered
foreigners resided in Germany. Turks made up the largest group (1.9 million),
followed by immigrants from the former Yugoslavia (930,000), Italians
(565,000), Greeks (350,000), Poles (260,000), and Austrians (185,000).
About 25 percent of these foreign residents, most of whom were born in
Germany, are under the age of eighteen. Because of the higher birth rate
of foreigners, one of every ten births in Germany is to a foreigner. However,
because recruiting of Gastarbeiter stopped in 1973 at the onset of a worldwide
recession, most foreign workers are middle-aged and have lived in Germany
for several decades.
The foreign population is not distributed evenly. More than two-thirds
live in the Länder of North Rhine-Westphalia, Baden-Württemberg,
and Bavaria, where in 1990 they made up 9, 10, and 7 percent of the population,
respectively. Foreigners live mainly in urban areas; in 1989 approximately
23 percent of foreign residents lived in Hamburg and Berlin. Foreigners
often live in particular areas of large cities. (For example, Kreuzberg
in Berlin and Kalk in Cologne both have large Turkish communities.) There
are few foreigners in the new Länder. Of the roughly 190,000 foreigners
living in the former GDR in 1989 because of work contracts, many have
since been repatriated to Vietnam, Mozambique, Cuba, and other developing
countries that were friendly to the GDR regime.
Foreigners began arriving in West Germany in large numbers in the 1960s
after the construction of the Berlin Wall ended migration from East Germany.
Recruited mainly from a number of countries in southern Europe, Gastarbeiter
were not expected to stay beyond the terms of their work permits. However,
many opted to remain in West Germany and subsequently brought their families
there to live. As a result, and owing to higher birth rates, the foreign
population in Germany has increased substantially (see table 9, Appendix).
By offering financial incentives, West German authorities hoped to encourage
some Gastarbeiter to return to their native countries, but relatively
few took advantage of these provisions. A tightening of entry restrictions
also caused many to remain in Germany rather than risk not being readmitted
after spending time in their home country.
Although no longer recruited abroad, Germany's foreign residents remain
vital to the economy, parts of which would shut down if they were to depart.
They also contribute to the country's welfare and social insurance programs
by paying twice as much in taxes and insurance premiums as they receive
in benefits. In the long term, their presence may be seen as vital because
they have a positive birth rate. The birth rate among native Germans is
so low that some studies have estimated that Germany will require approximately
200,000 immigrants a year to maintain its population into the next century
and support its array of social welfare benefits.
Most Germans do not see their country as a land of immigration like the
United States or Canada, and no demographic or social issue has generated
greater controversy than the presence of foreigners in the Federal Republic.
In an opinion poll taken in 1982, two-thirds of West Germans said that
there were too many foreigners in Germany, and one-half thought that foreigners
should be sent back to their countries of origin. In 1992 another poll
found that the "foreigner problem" ranked as the most serious issue for
western Germans and was third in importance for eastern Germans.
According to the foreigners law that went into effect in mid-1993, foreigners
living in Germany for fifteen years may become German citizens if they
have no criminal record and renounce their original citizenship. Young
foreigners who have resided eight years in Germany may become citizens
if they have attended German schools for six years and apply for citizenship
between the ages of sixteen and twenty-three. Usually, however, German
citizenship depends not on where one is born (ius solis) but on the nationality
of the father or, since 1974, on the mother (ius sanguinis). Thus, to
many, German citizenship depends on being born German and cannot rightfully
be acquired through a legal process. This notion makes it practically
impossible for naturalized citizens or their children to be considered
German. Some reformers advocate eliminating the concept of German blood
in the 1913 law regulating citizenship, but the issue is an emotional
one, and such a change has little popular support.
Registered Foreign Residents in Germany
by Nationality, Selected Years, 1961-92 (in thousands)
|Total European Community
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