Germans see immigration as the EU’s most important current challenge, while a majority are opposed to immigrants from outside the bloc. EURACTIV Germany reports.
In Thursday’s (19 February) national edition of the Eurobarometer opinion poll, 37% of Germans surveyed see migration as the biggest challenge for the EU, and for Germany, at the moment.
Only in the United Kingdom (38%) and Malta (57%) are these percentages higher. In most member states, the economic situation (33%) and unemployment (29%) were perceived as the biggest Europe-wide issues.
Meanwhile only 29% of Germans have a positive opinion of immigration from third countries, outside the EU. A relative majority (45%) said they believe illegal immigration into the EU should be counteracted at both EU and national levels. This corresponds to perceptions among a growing number of respondents in Germany (29%), who feel there are not enough inspections at the EU’s external borders.
As a result, German citizens are somewhat more critical than the average of all Europeans surveyed, of which 57% are against immigrants from third countries. Opposition was higher than in Germany among respondents from Italy (75%), Latvia (79%) and Slovakia (74%).
“The issue of migration has become more controversial and has reached the mainstream of society,” said Richard Kühnel, representative of the European Commission in Germany. Better integration of immigrants from third countries is a shared task, he explained. Protection of refugees, who come to the EU via the Mediterranean, must also be improved, Kühnel indicated.
Half of Germans surveyed (50%) welcome immigration from other EU member states. 76% of Germans said they thought it was good that every EU citizen can live in any EU country. 76% of Germans see it as a good thing that every EU citizen can work in an EU country of their choosing.
Meanwhile Germany is attracting a growing number of immigrants, especially from Eastern Europe. In the first half of 2014, 667,000 people moved to the Federal Republic. That is 112,000 or 20% more than the year before, the Federal Statistical Office indicated on Thursday.
At the same time, 427,000 people left Germany. The resulting difference between those leaving and arriving was 240,000 more people moving into the country than moving out.
“Most foreign immigrants who arrived came from Europe,” the statisticians explained. Romania (98,000) is first on the list, followed by Poland (96,000) and Bulgaria (38,000).
“In the cases of Romania and Bulgaria, it can be observed as the result of the complete free movement of workers which took effect in 2014, seven years after EU accession took effect for both states,” the Statistical Office indicated.
Among non-European states, immigration from the civil-war-ridden country Syria saw a considerable increase – rising 242% and thereby reaching 22,000 immigrants.
Many citizens from southern eurozone states also come to Germany because of the economic and debt crises. Immigration from Italy increase by 28%, and from Spain by 1%. At the same time, immigration from Greece decreased by 7%.
More people also came from Bosnia Herzegovina and Serbia, which “is likely to correspond in part to the growing number of asylum seekers from these countries,” the Statistical Office said.
A prediction from the Federal Agency for Migration and Refugees (BAMF) indicates the total number of asylum applications is likely to rise 50% compared to 2014, reaching 300,000. This includes around 250,000 first-time and 50,000 follow-up applications, a spokeswoman from the Federal Agency said on Thursday, citing the prognosis, which she said had been sent to the federal states.
With 203,000 applications last year, the Federal Republic already recorded its fourth highest number of applications since its existence. At the same time, authorities have become more strict: 10,884 people were deported, more than had been in eight years.
The German authorities are particularly concerned about increasing numbers of people coming from Kosovo, who are often brought in by human traffickers. At the federal and regional levels, there is agreement that applications from Kosovo should be processed within two weeks, and that deportation should be used more readily.
The German government established a committee in 2014 to investigate the effects of so-called "poverty immigration" from Bulgaria and Romania, amid complaints from overburdened cities.
After Bulgaria and Romania’s EU accession on 1 January 2007, most EU countries lifted the restrictions to their labour markets to workers from these countries.
But restrictions remained in Austria, Belgium, France, Germany, Ireland, Luxembourg, Malta, the Netherlands and the UK.
These countries required Bulgarian and Romanian citizens to have work permits before entering their territory.
According to the Bulgaria and Romania accession treaties, of 1 January 2014 those restrictions are entirely lifted everywhere in the Union.
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